Look Out Behind! States with the Most Tailgating Violations (2021)

A minor tailgating accident between two sedans.

Tailgating is an undeniably aggressive driving behavior. In these states, drivers are most guilty of following too close. 

Tailgating is a blast. All you need is a car, a grill, and some camping chairs to kick off a great day of football with family and friends. Unless, of course, we’re talking about that other kind of tailgating, out on the road. 

We’ve all been there before: looking in our rearview mirror only to see an aggressive driver following way too close. It’s a dangerous practice that can cause stress, road rage, or even an accident. Safe driving with a tailgater involves staying calm, maintaining a constant speed, and changing lanes if on a multi-lane road and conditions allow. Yet even if a crash is avoided, there can still be consequences for tailgating. While tailgating penalties aren’t the most severe of all driving infractions, they can cost up to $500, and the tailgating driver’s record can take a hit, depending on the circumstances. Plus, their insurance rate will increase by an average of 25 percent. 

Tailgating happens everywhere, but it’s a problem in some states more than others. To understand where tailgating is most likely to occur, data scientists at Insurify looked to their database to find the states with the most tailgating citations in 2021. 

Heat map of the United States showing the states with the highest rates of tailgating in 2021.

Insights

  • National averages. On average, 8.9 out of every 10,000 drivers in the United States have a prior citation for tailgating. Additionally, 20.7 drivers per 1,000 nationwide have at least one violation for other aggressive driving behavior, including failure to yield violations, failure to stop violations, improper backing, passing where prohibited, street racing, and hit-and-runs. Across the United States, 47 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities stem from multi-vehicle accidents, including rear-end collisions
  • Regional differences. Tailgating rates differ by region: the Northeast, Midwest, West, and South have an average of 5.8, 8.9, 11.2, and 9.4 tailgating citations for every 10,000 drivers, respectively. Note, however, that this variation is not statistically significant. Furthermore, the three states with the highest rates of tailgating—Idaho, Georgia, and Nebraska—are all located in different regions of the country. 
  • Tailgating and other aggressive driving behavior are strongly correlated. States with the most tailgate-prone drivers are also likely to have more aggressive drivers overall. Insurify’s data scientists implemented a Pearson’s correlation statistic to examine the prevalence of tailgating and other aggressive driving behavior (including failure to yield violations, failure to stop violations, improper backing, passing where prohibited, street racing, and hit-and-runs) in the United States. They found statewide rates of tailgating and other aggressive driving violations have a significant, positive correlation, indicating states with higher levels of tailgating are more likely to have higher levels of other rude driving behavior (R=0.67, p < 0.01). Police officers will sometimes cite reckless drivers with additional, more specific charges, such as speeding or tailgating, which is one potential explanation for this correlation. Additionally, states that more strictly police tailgating may also be more liable to enforce similar violations, such as failure to yield or passing where prohibited. 

Bar graph depicting the ten states whose drivers have the most tailgating violations in 2021.

Methodology

Data scientists at Insurify, a site to compare auto insurance quotes, referred to its database of over 4 million car insurance applications to identify the states with the most tailgating citations per driver.

A driver can receive a tailgating citation if they are not following a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of them, given the speed limit, road conditions, and weather conditions. By not leaving a safe following distance, they risk not having enough time to react to any unexpected slowdown, potentially causing an accident. 

When applying for car insurance, applicants disclose their state of residence and any past violations on their driving record. This includes tailgating violations, as well as other violations Insurify has determined as most indicative of aggressive driving: failure to yield violations (failure to yield the right of way, failure to yield to a pedestrian), failure to stop violations (failure to stop for a red light, school bus, or stop sign), improper backing, passing where prohibited, tailgating, street racing, and hit-and-runs.

Analysts compared the number of drivers in each state with a tailgating violation to the total driving population to determine which states had the highest proportion of tailgating citations. Statewide rates of other aggressive driving violations were also derived from Insurify’s database using the same methodology. Additionally, data on the percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents come from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s latest State by State Fatality Facts report. 

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Top 10 States with the Most Tailgating Violations (2021)

1. Idaho – 273% more street racing violations than average

2. Georgia – 259% more street racing violations than average

3. Nebraska – 196% more street racing violations than average

4. Virginia – 172% more street racing violations than average

5. Washington – 125% more street racing violations than average

6. Ohio – 116% more street racing violations than average

7. Utah – 112% more street racing violations than average

8. Oregon – 42% more street racing violations than average

9. Colorado – 41% more street racing violations than average

10. Connecticut – 38% more street racing violations than average

States with the Most Tailgaters, 2021

10. Connecticut

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 12.3
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 15.8
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 40%

Watch your back in the Constitution State, because drivers there receive tailgating citations at a rate 38 percent higher than the national average. Motorists there seem otherwise to be quite friendly, however, as Connecticut is the only state on this list with a below-average rate of other aggressive driving violations. The state also has a relatively lower proportion of its traffic deaths stemming from multi-car accidents

9. Colorado

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 12.6
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 27.1
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 47%

Beyond skiing, hiking, and cheering on Denver’s six professional sports teams, Colorado drivers apparently have a penchant for tailgating as well, since they receive citations for it at the ninth-highest rate in the country. The issues don’t stop there, as they also accumulate other aggressive driving violations at a rate 31 percent higher than the national average. Colorado lands right down the middle for multi-vehicle crashes, however, where their proportion of deaths stemming from such accidents is at exactly the nation’s average. 

8. Oregon

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 12.6
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 24.6
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 41%

It’s hard to miss Oregon’s stunning natural attractions, from Crater Lake to Mount Hood. Unfortunately, it’s hard to miss tailgaters, too, as Beaver State drivers are cited for tailgating 42 percent more than the national average. On top of this, the state also ranks within the top 15 for other aggressive driving infractions. Its percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle incidents is, thankfully, below-average. 

7. Utah

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 18.9
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 24.5
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 47%

Like Colorado, Utah is home to a bevy of beautiful skiing and hiking destinations. Unfortunately, it fares even worse than its fellow mountain state compatriot when it comes to tailgating, racking up citations at a 50 percent greater rate. Interestingly, Utah has a lower prevalence of other aggressive driving violations than Colorado, and the two states have the same proportion of crash deaths that result from multi-vehicle accidents. 

6. Ohio

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 19.2
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 33.2
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 50%

Ohio may be first in flight, but the state is sixth in the prevalence of tailgaters. Though this isn’t a great result, it could be worse: drivers in the Buckeye state also have the third-highest rate of aggressive driving infractions. On the other hand, Ohio’s proportion of accident fatalities stemming from multi-vehicle crashes is within the range of average. 

5. Washington

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 20.1
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 25.2
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 46%

The West Coast is known for its easygoing culture, but that certainly does not apply to all Washington drivers, who receive tailgating citations 125 percent more often than average. The state also has the 12th-highest rate of other rude driving violations. The percentage of crash deaths resulting from multiple vehicle accidents is, however, right around the national average. 

4. Virginia

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 24.3
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 33.7
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 40%

Virginia is for lovers, but for some Virginians, that love does not extend to other drivers. Despite the welcoming slogan, drivers in the Old Dominion actually receive tailgating citations 172 percent more often than the national average. On top of that, the state ranks number one overall in violations for other aggressive driving behavior. On a more positive note, the proportion of accident deaths resulting from multi-vehicle incidents is relatively below average in Virginia. 

3. Nebraska

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 26.4
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 28.5
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 57%

A high rate of Nebraskan drivers apparently are not too keen on leaving sufficient distance between them and the vehicle in front, as tailgating in Nebraska occurs at a rate nearly three times the national average. The state also ranks ninth in the country for its share of other aggressive driving violations. Additionally, Nebraska has the highest proportion of accident deaths stemming from multi-vehicle crashes of any state in the nation. 

2. Georgia

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 32.0
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 33.3
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 51%

Georgia motorists may want to relax in some of the state’s beautiful coastal, mountain, or farmland terrain (or at least take a breather) before hopping back in the car, since Peach State drivers rank second in the nation in frequency of both tailgating citations and other aggressive driving violations. Beyond this, the state’s percentage of accident deaths resulting from multi-vehicle incidents exceeds the national average by 9 percent. 

1. Idaho

  • Drivers cited for tailgating per 10,000 motorists: 33.3
  • Drivers with other aggressive infractions per 1,000 motorists: 32.6
  • Percentage of crash deaths resulting from multi-vehicle accidents: 48%

While Idaho has a lot going for it—picturesque mountain landscapes and vast swathes of protected wilderness—its motorists leave much to be desired when it comes to driving habits. Gem State drivers receive tailgating citations at a rate that’s a whopping 273 percent higher than average. Idaho also ranks fourth in the country for other aggressive driving violations. Fortunately, the proportion of the state’s crash fatalities stemming from multi-vehicle accidents is right about average.

If you have any questions or comments about this article or would like to request the data, please contact insights@insurify.com.

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