Tailgating other drivers is a well-known act of road rage, but brake checking is another aggression-based action that deserves attention. Brake checking is the act of braking hard in front of a tailgater to dissuade the driver from following too closely.
Drivers in front often think they won’t face responsibility for resulting car accidents, but those drivers couldn’t be more wrong. Brake checking is as negligent as tailgating, swerving in and out of lanes, or driving distracted.
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Why Brake Checking is a Bad Idea
Tailgating is annoying and unsafe. If you can’t change lanes or you feel like you shouldn’t have to, brake checking may seem like a logical alternative. Some drivers rationalize the action because they think the rear vehicle is always at fault in rear-ending accidents.
While the desire to brake check is understandable, no lawyer, cop, or driving expert will recommend it because:
- Brake checking causes accidents in a similar manner to tailgating. A brake check can cause a tailgater to slam into your vehicle or to wildly swerve and cause a single car or multi-vehicle accident. You may feel frustrated with tailgaters, but taking an action that could harm others and lead to the tailgater’s own death or injury is not the answer.
- Brake checkers can face liability in accidents. If you had no legitimate reason to brake other than to upset the driver behind you, you could share responsibility for resulting injuries under comparative negligence laws in Texas. Tailgating and brake checking are both acts of negligence because they represent a purposeful disregard for the safety of other drivers.
- Brake checking videos can cause significant public embarrassment. If you slam on your brakes, cause a tailgater to act even more recklessly, and cause an accident or near-accident, video footage of the incident could end up online. People everywhere may see your act of road rage, and locals may recognize your vehicle. Today, many drivers use dash cams to protect themselves from legal liability, and some catch and post incidents of road rage on YouTube for the world to see.
Brake checking or tapping may seem like a harmless response to the act of tailgating, but it can result in serious consequences. If you’re not prepared to handle injuries, death, legal liability, and the public scrutiny that may result from your actions, choose a safer way to address tailgating.
The Right Steps to Take Around Tailgaters
When tailgaters get too close, take a deep breath. Instead of trying to deter a tailgater with your brake habits, use these safe driving tips:
- Make consistent and deliberate movements. Maintain a constant speed and allow the vehicle to move around you or signal and move over/pull over to the right to allow the tailgater to pass. If you let the speeding tailgater pass, you can return to your normal driving speed without worry.
- Report the driver. If you pull or move over, try to capture the vehicle make/model and license plate number as the tailgater passes. In Texas, you can call 800-525-5555 to report dangerous or intoxicated drivers. Look on the back of your state-issued driver’s license to find the number in the future. You may see a cop pull the tailgater over a few miles down the road, which can deliver as much satisfaction as brake checking, without the safety hazards.
- Follow the rules of the road. Don’t increase your speed to try to appease the tailgater. Travel at a safe speed, use your turn signals, and allow the tailgater to make his or her decisions. Speeding up or swerving into another lane out of anxiety can cause additional roadway hazards including speeding accidents.
Tailgating is frustrating, but drivers who react in a similarly aggressive manner increase hazards on the road for everyone. Remain calm and collected. You can’t control how other drivers behave on the roadways, but you can control your own actions.
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