It has long been one of the biggest bugbears for motorists – not to mention one of the most dangerous.
But now roads bosses are planning a crackdown on tailgating with new cameras that monitor gaps between vehicles.
The technology is being trialled on a stretch of motorway in the Midlands, with plans being drawn up for a possible nationwide rollout next year.
Highways England figures obtained by the Daily Mail show the devices have caught more than 26,000 drivers in two months – more than 400 a day.
Roads bosses are planning a crackdown on tailgating with new cameras that monitor gaps between vehicles
The offence can lead to prosecution for driving without due care and attention.
Offenders risk a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points, however, motorists caught by the cameras are only being given warning letters during the trials.
Official figures show more than 100 people are killed or seriously injured each year in accidents where a vehicle has driven too close to the one in front.
Smart motorways blamed for surge in speeding fines as figures reveal new ‘stealth cameras’ are behind 10 per cent of police penalties
The number of speed cameras on motorways has trebled in a decade – and they are now responsible for more than one in ten of all speeding fines issued by police.
The ‘stealth cameras’ have proliferated because they are deemed crucial to controversial smart motorways.
Figures obtained by the Mail showed that more than 253,000 notices of intended prosecution (NIPs) were issued in the 12 months to this autumn by 17 of the 20 police forces whose areas cover smart motorways in England and Wales.
The figures – which exclude fines issued by temporary, average speed check cameras – reveal for the first time the extent of speeding penalties issued on motorways.
Smart motorways account for 416 miles of road and are expected to almost double in length by 2025, and so a huge number of extra cameras are due to be installed.
The lethal habit is a factor in around one in eight casualties on motorways and a-roads.
Highways England believes only a small minority of tailgating is deliberate, with many drivers simply unaware they are dangerously invading a car’s space.
It could be the case that only repeat offenders are prosecuted by the new cameras. Data from the trials show that of the 26,000 caught between October 5 and December 5, 3,700 were caught tailgating more than once.
The worst offenders were identified 12 times.
The Highway Code says drivers should allow at least a two-second gap between vehicles, which is doubled on wet roads.
In-car research using dashcams and heart monitors revealed a driver’s typical reaction to being tailgated is surprise, anger and increased heart rate.
Victims can feel pressure to dangerously increase their speed to create more space between them and the offending vehicle.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: ‘When people think of the causes of road accidents, tailgating probably isn’t one of them, but it’s one that can have dangerous repercussions.
‘Highways England’s innovative plans are already showing how serious and reckless this behaviour is, and through this campaign I hope we see tailgating drop, making our roads, already some of the safest in the world, safer still.’
Highways England’s Head of Road Safety Jeremy Philips said: ‘These new cameras have, sadly, highlighted just how many people are driving too close on our roads.
‘We understand that most tailgating is unintentional by drivers who are simply unaware they are dangerously invading someone else’s space.
‘But not leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front can be very frightening and intimidating – it could also prove fatal.’