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You may not consider tailgating a significant cause of motor vehicle accidents. Your thoughts may turn to drivers moving too fast or too slow, disrupting the flow of traffic. Or you may worry more about drunk, distracted or intoxicated motorists, whose disregard for the law endangers everyone.

Yet tailgating presents dangers of its own, and it contributes to over one-third of motor vehicle accidents. If you have been in a crash caused by tailgating, or if you tend to hug the bumpers of other drivers, consider these tips next time you hit the road.

Follow the three-second rule

You can reduce your odds of getting into a tailgating accident by following the three-second rule. To practice it, find a landmark on the road, like a speed limit sign or a milepost. Then, count the number of seconds between the time the vehicle in front of you passes it and the time you pass it. If the time is less than three seconds, you might want to back off a bit. If the time is three seconds or more, then your following distance is likely safe.

Keep the weather in mind

On rainy, snowy or foggy days, you might want to increase the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. When it rains or snows, roads become slipperier, and you need a longer length to brake safely. When fog is present, visibility decreases. In all these cases, maintaining a significant following distance can allow you to react before it’s too late.

Consider the law

By Colorado law, you can receive a ticket for not following the three-second rule. Tailgating can also lead to an aggressive driving ticket, which may happen if an officer believes your tailgating endangers other motorists. And the prospect of a fine may make you think twice before tailgating next time you’re on the road.

You may think that tailgating sends a message to slower motorists. If anything, it will aggravate them and make your commute less safe. By backing off, you can diminish the legal and safety risks that come with following too closely.