How riders should deal with a tailgater

lane filtering - tailgater business

Almost every rider will have experienced a tailgater following way too close.

Why does this happen?

It’s probably for the same reason that drivers pull out in front of you – they just don’t seem to see motorcycles.

There is something about the size of the bike that makes drivers perceive them as further away.

Drivers tend to stay a long way back from a truck because of its size, but they don’t realise how close they are to much smaller motorcycles.

Ok, there are some tailgaters who are just jerks and are trying to intimidate you because they want to pass or they are offended by something you’ve done such as (legally) filtering through the traffic to get in from of them.

I’m extra sensitive to tailgaters because I’ve been run over – albeit by another rider – so I have developed these options to prevent or deal with a tailgater:


A bit of courtesy can avoid road-rage tailgating.

Don’t tailgate others and they may not return the “favour”. (Besides, bikes can’t brake as quickly as some cars!)

When you pass vehicles, don’t quickly whip across in front of them. Leave a gap and maybe give them a short wave to thank them for letting you in front.


It’s very tempting, but don’t do it! I’ve tried rude gestures and yelling abuse, and it just inflames the situation.

If they are accidentally following too closely, try a simple waving gesture to move them back followed by a thumbs-up gesture if they comply.

However, if they are in road-rage mode, it will only make them more aggressive.


Use the acceleration and manoeuvring abilities of your bike to pass the vehicle in front and put another vehicle between you and the tailgater as a buffer.

This may only be a temporary measure, though, as the tailgater may also pass that vehicle.


Don’t try to put some distance between you and the tailgater as it may mean you are speeding, or you are now tailgating the vehicle in front.

In fact, you should increase your distance to the vehicle in front in case you do get rammed from the rear as that will give you more room to manoeuvre your bike to safety.

Also, speeding up may just invite the tailgater to also speed up.

Lane position automated vehicles tailgater


If you’re in heavy traffic and you feel you may be hit from behind, plan an escape route off to the side of the road or through the lanes of traffic to avoid the situation.

That’s one of the reasons why lane filtering has been legalised in some states. It gives you an escape route to avoid tailgaters and rear-enders.

But remember, it can also cause road rage which leads to tailgating.

lane-splitting lane filtering tailgater


If you want them to pass, give them a signal by waving them through.

But hold your lane. Let them go around you.

And don’t slow down to ridiculously speeds, as that will hold up traffic and make more drivers frustrated.


You may not realise it, but you probably don’t use the brakes very often to adjust your speed.

Most riders use their gears and engine compression to slow down.

This means drivers behind you can’t tell you’re slowing as there is no brake light signal, so they get closer to your rear wheel.

You need to give them a signal to alert them to you.

Try gently tapping the brakes a few times so the brake flight flashes and catches the attention of those behind you.

Just squeeze the brake lever enough to activate the brake light, rather than actually activating the brakes.

The last thing you want to do is slow down more as that will make the situation worse.

Fingers wresting on the brake lever and around the throttle - tailgater


Another way to grab their attention is to weave a little in your lane.

Nothing too dramatic, but maybe switch from one wheel track to another.

However, don’t stay in the kerbside wheel track too long or it may be seen as an invitation to the driver to dangerously squeeze through the lane past you.


Don’t get paranoid about the tailgater and spend all your time looking in the rearview mirrors or over your shoulder.

That could lead to you crashing into something in front of you through inattention.


If the tailgater is persistent, why not pull over?

Most times we are not in a hurry to get somewhere, but just enjoying the ride and the scenery.

So pulling over won’t make much difference and you can enjoy the scenery a little more.

Tailgater pull over and admire the view New Zealand Indian Scout
Pull over and admire the view

If you are on your way to work, pulling over for just 30 seconds won’t make much difference to your arrival time yet it will allow the offending tailgater to get a long way in front.

Tailgating can be a nerve-wracking experience.

It may leave you angry, with a raised heart rate and/or a feeling of nervousness, all of which can affect your riding ability.

Now that you’ve pulled over, take some time to soak up the scenery and calm down.

One thought on “How riders should deal with a tailgater

  1. If you notice a tailgater the first thing you do is look for an escape next you weave side to side dramatically but not too much so that the guy sees you. Do not wave your hands give thumbs up or any other hand gesture as you may need both hands on the controls and the idiot might think you’re about to do a rude gesture.
    There are four main types of tailgaters idiots who don’t know what they are doing, bullies trying to get ahead of everything in front of them Road rages and cops trying to get you to speed. Unless you can not filter Do Not pull over turn off if you must, pulling over can place you in greater danger .
    My favorite way to deal with tailgating bullies or road ragers is to maintain speed even when the traffic ahead is stopping then slip past the car in front more often than not you will hear a screech followed by a crunch as the idiot rear ends the car you passed and the idiot will have no excuse . By the way very few cars can brake anywhere near as well as a bike can (with the exception of old Harleys) even a bike without ABS on a clean dry surface can brake at up to 3 Gs formula 1 cars can manage 2.5 – 3 Gs the best street car can manage 2 Gs at best, even in the wet and without ABS a skilled rider can out brake most cars. This is another reason why bikes get rear ended they stop quicker than cars .

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