Many of you will have been there, I’m sure. It happened to me when travelling home from work one evening.

I had barely joined the motorway when my rear view mirror was completely filled with the image of another vehicle on my tail. That’s why they call it ‘tailgating’.

I should confess that I am coming around to the view that it’s time to think about raising the limit on motorways to 80 mph. Car technology is now so sophisticated that a 10 mph increase seems reasonable, especially for zero emission vehicles.

(For the record, I also think 20 mph is a sensible limit around schools and in built-up areas, providing it’s enforced in a reasonable and proportionate manner).

An emphasis on driving ‘sociably’

However, on the occasion in question I was driving at 65 mph and maybe that’s what provoked my shadow? To make matters worse, when the driver overtook I could see he was clearly distracted with only one hand on the steering wheel and the other on his mobile phone.

‘Tailgating’ is intimidating and highly dangerous. At the very least it’s anti-social and characterises those who drive with little or no thought for other road users. It’s why there is an emphasis on driving ‘sociably’ as well as ‘safely’ in my overall strategy for policing – the police and crime plan.

a young woman sits in a mechanical contraption that mimics the impact of a car crash
The ‘Drive for Life’ sled shows students how forceful a crash feels, even when wearing a seatbelt, highlighting its importance

Since my office took over responsibility for the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme just under a year ago, 20,094 errant motorists have gone through the system locally and more than half of them for offences committed in Gloucestershire. The majority were for breaking the speed limit but since I invested in a long range camera, officers are picking-up other offences including the use of mobile phones while driving, tailgating and non-use of seatbelts.

Where education fails, enforcement follows

More than 400 of those offences were detected in the last quarter.

Ministers have been urged to introduce penalty points for drivers not wearing their seatbelts as it appears thousands are now flouting a law we thought was second nature; while in a recent survey, more than half the 2,000 people questioned thought it an appropriate punishment and the same as the penalty for lesser speeding offences.

It’s not ‘bashing the motorist’; but tailgating, mobile phone usage and driving without a seatbelt displays a lack of respect not only for the law but for other road users. And where education fails, enforcement follows – however regrettable that might seem.