Life

Brake-Checking a Tailgater? Bad Idea!

We’ve all had to deal with someone unmercifully riding our rear bumper unmercifully. But break-checking to scare them off could backfire in a big way.

It started with a video showing something we’ve all faced at some point: a driver who is obviously in a hurry and can’t be bothered with simple concepts like common courtesy or a speed limit.

The video shows two black SUVs in the left lane. The second seems to be clearly tailgating the first. The cars pass an onramp where another vehicle gets on the highway, preventing the vehicle being tailgated from being able to safely move to the right lane.

That does not, unfortunately, give the tailgating driver any pause.

Watch the video, paying particular attention to what happens around the :30 mark.

It’s called a “brake check.”

Brake-checking means tapping the brakes so the driver behind you will (hopefully) get the message to slow down and give you some room.

What appears to have happened in this video was no one was injured and the vehicle came to rest in the median after hitting a road sign.

What appears to have happened is the driver — in fact, both drivers — were fortunate.

What could have happened, however, is much worse: the driver could have struck a driver in the next lane over, could have overturned, or could have crossed the median into oncoming traffic, anyone of which could have led to a fatality.

Watching reactions to this video on Facebook was certainly entertaining. I’ve seen quite a few people claim they would have break-checked that driver, too, and skidding off the road was exactly what that “rude” driver “deserved.”

Perhaps.

A tailgating driver can be subject to a charge of following too closely. (That’s South Carolina law; check your state’s driving laws for the equivalent where you live.)

But what about the driver that brake-checked? What does that driver deserve? According to a state trooper in South Carolina, if it happened here in the Palmetto State rather than Wisconsin, the brake checker may well have earned a citation for reckless driving.

As moving violations go, that’s one that fits in the category of almost as bad as it can get, with a big fine and six points on your license. Not to mention civil liabilities for damage or injury. (That SUV did appear to sustain at least some damage when it hit the road sign.)

The law in South Carolina defines reckless driving this way:

Any person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

Brake-checking is obviously a willfull act, and doing so, authorities tell me, demonstrates a “wanton disregard” for the other driver’s safety (and, for that matter, the safety of the drivers around that driver).

It’s so much easier to just get out of the way as soon as you can do so safely. The tailgater, sooner or later, will get in some kind of accident if that’s a good representation of how the driver actually drives.

Then, at least, you can’t be held responsible for it.

How often do you get tailgated? What do you do when a driver starts riding your bumper and refuses to let up?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.