In New York, the laws and regulations around tailgating can be confusing, making it easy to accidentally receive a tailgating ticket. Even though the law was most recently revised in 2012, many New Yorkers are unaware of what it means to follow too closely, the consequences of a tailgating ticket, and how to best defend themselves against such a ticket.
What Is Following Too Closely?
Pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1129(a), it is illegal to follow too closely. Specifically, “[t]he driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”
While the law seems simple and concise, many New York drivers struggle to understand what is too close? There is no specific, measured distance that a driver must leave between their own vehicle and the vehicle in front of them, making the tailgating law even more enigmatic. So What is a reasonable following distance?
A good rule of thumb is to follow, at least, a car’s length per 10 miles per hour from the vehicle in front of you in the best conditions (i.e. clear skies, minimal traffic, optimal lighting, dry pavement, etc.). For instance, if you’re driving at 60 miles per hour on a highway, you should maintain a distance of roughly six car lengths between the rear bumper of the vehicle in front of you and your vehicle’s front bumper. This distance allows you enough time to stop or move as necessary to avoid an accident in the other vehicle stops short. In less-than-ideal circumstances (i.e. rain or snow, darkness, heavy traffic, etc.), this distance should be increased to allow for more reaction time.
Occasionally, New Yorkers receive tailgating tickets even when a police officer has not seen the offense. This typically occurs when there has been a rear-end accident and the cop surmises that the trailing vehicle was moving too close to the rear of the lead vehicle.
Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you is important for several reasons. Most simply, it gives you the greatest time and distance to react as necessary to avoid creating (or worsening) an accident. This helps protect your vehicle, yourself, and your passengers from serious harm, or even death. Keeping a safe distance also allows space for oncoming traffic to merge onto roadways, and allows emergency vehicles to efficiently maneuver as necessary.
Penalties for a Tailgating Ticket in New York
Like the majority of traffic infractions in New York, a tailgating ticket carries points that go against the driver’s license. Following too closely carries 4 points on once’s license. While this may not seem like much, it is important to remember that most tickets only carry 2 or 3 points. Further, receiving too many points within a specific time period can result in some costly consequences:
If you receive 6 points on your driver record for violations committed during a period of 18 months, the annual assessment is $100. The minimum amount that you must pay each year is the annual assessment. The total assessment for the three years is $300. If you receive more than 6 points on your driver record during a period of 18 months, the annual assessment is $25 for each point in addition to the original six points. The minimum amount that you must pay each year is the annual assessment. The total assessment for the three years is $75 for each point in addition to the original 6 points.(New York Department of Motor Vehicles)
A tailgating ticket also carries a fine of up to about $200. It is also important to note that tailgating tickets are often given alongside other traffic violations, including:
- reckless driving
- other moving violations
In the long run, the legal costs and consequences of a tailgating ticket can be considerably hefty.
Defending Against a Tailgating Ticket
The most important step in defending against a tailgating ticket is to not admit guilt before consulting with a knowledgeable New York traffic attorney. The primary defense against a citation for following too closely is to prove that you were following at a reasonably safe distance based on the conditions at the time and place of the alleged infraction. While you may be able to develop and argue other winning defenses by yourself, it is recommended that you seek legal counsel to assist in proving that you were not tailgating.
Since 1991, the traffic lawyers at Weiss & Associates, PC, have helped over 100,000 motorists in court. Our lawyers specialize in traffic law across New York State, and we make your traffic issue as easy as possible. For more information about New York’s tailgating laws, or to discuss your defense options, contact us today for a free consultation!