TEAM Arizona Riding Tip: How to Deal with Tailgating as a Motorcyclist – Not Like a NYC Biker

November 7, 2013 Tags: , , ,

NYC Tailgating BikerWe all saw the ugly news reports out of New York City.  Bikers attack SUV driver.  Biker gangs assault motorist.  Bikers causing trouble.  Uggghhh.  One big giant mess for the motorcycling community.

When it comes to tailgating drivers, how can we, as respectable motorcyclists, avoid the pitfall of motorist-motorcyclist engagement?  How can we reduce our risk and get back to what we want the most:  enjoying our ride?


Will we, as a motorcycle rider on a motorcycle, ever win with a motor vehicle?  Nope.  With one jerk of the steering wheel, a motorist could end our ride…permanently.  So what is the risk?  Your life.

With this known, engaging with a tailgating motorist is a losing proposition.  There are ways, however, we can turn a negative tailgating experience into a positive experience.


Since we are vulnerable as motorcyclists, making sure we have the right attitude when dealing with the motoring public is crucial.  In the case of a tailgater, practicing immediate forgiveness is paramount.  Why forgive?

Primarily, the motorist may not even know they’re tailgating for various reasons.  From inattentional blindness to selective attention, humans are hardwired to flat out not see motorcyclists.  So why get upset when they are doing something perfectly human?  Practice immediate forgiveness.

By forgiving the driver behind you, emotions like anger will remain in check, allowing you sufficient mental bandwidth to continue good decision-making.


tailgating driversMaking good decisions is aided by having sufficient time.  Since the person has eliminated the safety margin (time and space) behind you, it is up to you to create the time and space in front of  you.  Think of it this way; you’re having to plan your hazard avoidance maneuvers for two – you and the driver behind you.  By gently slowing, you will be able to create time in space in front of you.  This additional time will permit you to perform hazard avoidance maneuvers like stopping or swerving if necessary.  This is especially critical if you are in a single lane or are unable to switch immediately to another lane.  Notice, we wrote “gently slowing”; dealing with a tailgater is no time for a quick application of the brakes known as a “brake check” on the motorist behind you.

Also consider performing one or a mix of the following courses of action:

  • Flash your brake light (communicate your intentions)
  • Change lanes if possible (adjust position)
  • Maintain a lane position that discourages sharing the lane (adjust position to protect your lane)
  • Turn at the next opportunity, into a street or parking lot, to allow the person tailgating you to pass by

Finally, avoid using any gestures that may require you to remove hands from the handlebar.  By keeping both hands on the handlebar, YOU remain in total control.

Following these simple guidelines means you’ve decreased your risk and increased your riding enjoyment.  Isn’t that what motorcycling is all about?

If you want to share your story about a tailgater, please post it on the TEAM Arizona Facebook page.  We want to hear about what worked for you.  If you try our guidelines, let us know how they worked for you!

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