ON ROUTE 8: State Police begin crackdown on tailgating

Motorists traveling on Connecticut highways would be wise to make sure they keep a safe distance between their car and the vehicle in front of them.

That’s because state troopers in certain parts of the state are participating in a “Stop Tailgating, You’re Too Close" project during March.

The enforcement project involves troopers from the Bethany, Hartford and Westbrook barracks, covering limited access highways in the State Police’s central district, including Route 8.

Tickets and warnings being issued

During the first week of the initiative, 182 tickets were issued and 24 warnings given for following too closely.

The tailgating enforcement project will focus on limited access highways in the greater Hartford, New Haven, Meriden, Middletown and Old Saybrook areas on Interstate 84, Interstate 91, Interstate 95, Interstate 691, Routes 8, Route 9 and Route 15.

Educating the public

The project’s intent is to educate motorists on maintaining safe following distances, with the hope of voluntary compliance by all drivers to reduce aggressive driving habits and rear-end collision accidents.

The project will include an educational component as well as the increased visibility of troopers to strictly enforce following-too-closely violations.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) will support the Stop Tailgating project by posting “Tailgating Enforcement Zone” on overhead message boards along the highways as a reminder to motorists.

In addition, an undefined “new technology” will be provided by DOT to state troopers working in the operation.

While not viewed as a ticketing campaign by State Police officials, enforcement action will be taken when violations are observed by troopers.

What is tailgating?

When a driver follows too closely behind another motorist, it’s an aggressive driving behavior and the leading cause of accidents, according to State Police officials.

A review of the agency’s 2013 accident data for the central district shows that following too closely was the cause of about 40% of all accidents. Data also reveals that these rear-end collisions are most frequent during weekday commuting hours in clear weather and on dry roads.

Tailgating is common poor driving behavior that can result in dangerous rear-end collisions and easily be mistaken for aggressive driving leading to road rage.

What is a safe distance?

Connecticut law states no driver shall follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having regard for the speed of such vehicle, the traffic, the condition of the highway, and weather conditions.

Nationally, the “three-second rule” is recognized for passenger cars and light duty trucks traveling in ideal conditions. When the back-end of the vehicle ahead of you passes a fixed object, you count how long it takes you to pass this same object — “one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand.”

During less than ideal driving conditions or at speeds exceeding 55 mph, the distance should increase accordingly.

Connecticut laws

Connecticut has two laws governing these situations — Statute 14-240: Vehicles to be Driven Reasonable Distance Apart, and Statute 14-240a: Vehicles to be Driven Reasonable Distance Apart with Intent to Harass/Intimidate.

The fine for violations is $132. Drivers who tailgate will be cited for these moving violations whether or not a rear-end collision occurs.

“Maintaining a safe following distance is more than being a good driver — it's the law,” State Police officials said.