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A bold ITS initiative to discourage tailgating

Tailgating can be frustrating, scary and downright dangerous, as anyone who has experienced it knows. Now a solution is on the horizon…

Also called ‘close-following’, tailgating is often associated with aggressive road users who use this intimidating tactic to force other drivers out of their way. But many other drivers are accidental tailgaters, misjudging their speed of travel and the distance needed to stop safely, particularly in wet weather or heavy traffic.

In many jurisdictions around the world, tailgating is rightly an offence – albeit one that is costly and labour-intensive to enforce through traditional methods. Not surprisingly, this is an issue of keen interest to Redflex, as a world-leading pioneer in the design, development and deployment of Intelligent Transport Solutions that aim to save lives, save time and the environment.


Driving behavioural change through enforcement

‘Active compliance and traffic management technologies play a vital role in educating drivers and ultimately changing their behaviour,’ says Redflex CEO Mark Talbot. ‘The implementation of Redflex solutions is shown to help keep traffic flowing freely, improve road safety and increase road capacity.’

With tailgating being a key cause of death, personal injury, vehicle damage and congestion, any measure that can reduce the potential for incidents is important. Redflex is therefore undertaking trials for a tailgating system in partnership with Highways England on the M1 motorway.

Redflex continues to expand its Smart Motorway Managed Lane suite of solutions; the close-following project is the most recent innovation that safely maximises traffic throughput without expanding the number of lanes.

‘This solution – powered by our Halo platform – complements our existing variable speed limit and Red X compliance programs.  Early results from the trials have been very promising. We fully expect this to be another tool our customers will use to safely manage lane level traffic volumes’ says Talbot. The trial is due for completion in 2021.

Dr Jamie Uff, Associate Director for AECOM is leading the trial of the Redflex solution and says it addresses a clear need: ‘We’re excited to be trialling new technology to tackle this serious road safety issue.  Raising awareness of tailgating, and effectively changing driver behaviour, is expected to deliver a paradigm shift for road safety.'

The project sets out to develop a methodology and specification for the use of equipment to detect and record close-following to a pertinent standard so the evidence can be used to target offending drivers. Essentially, the system monitors each vehicle to measure and record in order to provide time and distance between vehicles. Proprietary algorithms accurately determine the speed and position of each vehicle in the region of interest, and automatically calculate the vehicle separation in order to determine whether one is following another at an unsafe distance. When a close-following offence is detected, the system records and creates an encrypted evidence file containing images and a supporting video clip that provides visual evidence of continuous close proximity driving pertaining to the offence.


Saving lives, money and improving road network flow

And there is a strong need for the system. A survey for Highways England found that while more than 25% of drivers admitted to tailgating, nearly 90% people say they have either been tailgated or witnessed it.

In September 2020, Highways England launched a public safety campaign, based around the theme of: ‘Don’t be a Space Invader: stay safe, stay back.’ Talbot commends the initiative and hopes that drivers will realise the impact of their behaviour on other road users and change it accordingly.

The costs of this behaviour are steep. Highways England state that tailgating is a factor in around one in eight casualties on England’s motorways and major A roads, with more than 130 people killed or seriously injured in incidents involving people driving too close in 2018.

The development of an enforcement solution is likely to win broad support from drivers too.  The same survey shows that more than two thirds of people think tailgating is a serious problem and that more can be done to tackle poor driver behaviour. Almost 80% say they would favour a clampdown on drivers who drive too close to the vehicle in front.

In a recent media release, Mark Byard, Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Highways England, advises drivers:

We’ve got used to social distancing during the pandemic. Now we’re reminding you to also keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Good drivers leave plenty of safe space for themselves and others. But driving too close is dangerous, can be intimidating and can cause collisions that could be avoided. We want everyone to travel safely, so we can all get home safe and well. Our advice is simple: stay safe, stay back."

Solutions for a world on the move

A global leader in the field, Redflex has more than 20 years’ experience in developing, implementing, and managing innovative Intelligent Traffic Solutions that actively manage traffic flows, decrease congestion, and improve road safety. This has helped Redflex develop trusted relationships with road and policing authorities across the world.

To find out more about our Redflex solutions for a world on the move click here.

To find out more about Highways England Space Invader initiative, click here