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Why Do Pickup Trucks Tailgate?

Almost everyone has been driving at night when suddenly, the lights of a pickup truck appear in the rearview mirror. 

It’s unnerving when a vehicle follows too closely, especially one as large as a truck.

Unfortunately, being tailgated is just an unpleasant part of driving on busy roads.

Pickup truck drivers tailgate for the same reasons as other drivers. For example, they might be in a hurry and trying to make you speed up, or they could be trying to pass you. However, certain aspects of trucks can also lead to unintentional tailgating, including their height and the line of sight from the driver’s seat.

Why Do Pickup Truck Drivers Tailgate Other Vehicles?

A vehicle tailgating a black car with its tail light turned on.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that all pickup drivers tailgate or that truck owners are more likely to tailgate than anyone else.

There will always be aggressive drivers on the road, regardless of vehicle ownership, and there’s no reason to single anyone out.

That said, people, including those who drive pickup trucks, tailgate to pressure the driver ahead of them to accelerate (or move), especially if that driver is going under the speed limit. 

Similarly, tailgating is sometimes a clear symptom of road rage.

When certain drivers get angry at someone else on the road, they express that rage by tailgating. 

More innocently, pickup truck drivers might tailgate if they’re trying to pass you.

The larger a vehicle is, the longer it takes to accelerate. 

Truck drivers may pull up close when getting ready to pass so they can do it as quickly and safely as possible. 

Also, it’s important to remember that tailgating doesn’t necessarily signal anything hostile – some people just drive too close to the vehicle in front of them and may not realize they’re doing it. 

Are Pickup Truck Drivers More Likely to Tailgate?

Although there are many theories about why pickup truck drivers seem more aggressive than the average driver, there is little research to back them up.

Bias Against Large Vehicles

One theory as to why people equate pickup trucks with aggressive driving merely has to do with their size. 

The assumption is that because pickup trucks are so large, they feel dangerous to other drivers and cause them to pay more attention. 

As a result, when a pickup truck driver is tailgating or exhibiting other ‘aggressive’ behaviors, other drivers are more likely to notice.

Demographics of Pickup Truck Drivers

There is also a theory that age and gender contribute to aggressive driving behavior, and statistically, the average pickup truck driver is male and under 50 years old.

In one AAA survey, 38% of men admitted to preventing someone from merging after the other driver upset them, compared to only 29% of women.

The same study also found that people between the ages of 19 and 39 were more likely to drive aggressively when angry.

Vehicle Height

Yet another theory claims that pickup truck drivers tailgate because of the height of their vehicles. 

In short, because pickup truck drivers tend to sit much higher than other drivers, they may misjudge how close they are to the person ahead of them. 

The idea makes sense if you imagine the viewpoint of a pickup truck driver compared to someone in a sedan. 

In a sedan, the driver sits near the ground, meaning the bottom of the vehicle in front of them becomes obscured by their hood rather quickly as they approach them. 

Conversely, since pickup truck drivers are higher up, they can see the entirety of the car in front of them at a much shorter distance, giving them the impression they have more room. 

Pickup Drivers Feel Safer

Finally, pickup drivers may seem to drive more aggressively because they feel safer in their vehicles. 

Since a truck is larger than most other vehicles, drivers may feel invincible.

This attitude may be reckless – and have devastating consequences – but it doesn’t necessarily mean the pickup is driving aggressively on purpose. 

In reality, a driver’s perception of safety can make them subconsciously operate their vehicle more thoughtlessly. 

People in tiny sedans are more likely to be hyper-aware of their surroundings because the larger vehicles around them make them feel unsafe.

However, since people in trucks don’t share this sense of danger, they may become too relaxed while driving, leading to unconscious actions that intimidate other drivers.

Is Tailgating Dangerous?

A man with a mask is speaking to two police officers as two cars are parked on the side of the road.

Tailgating is a dangerous gamble at the best of times, let alone when road conditions are not ideal. 

Following too close decreases the distance and amount of time the tailgater has to stop their vehicle.

Keeping a safe stopping distance gives drivers plenty of time to bring a car to a stop if the vehicle in front brakes suddenly or if road conditions change unexpectedly. 

Tailgating is also risky because the person being tailgated may interpret the behavior as aggressive, leading them to retaliate and drive belligerently. 

For instance, when tailgated, some people perform a “brake check,” slamming on the brakes to scare the person behind them. 

Brake checking can easily cause an accident and/or lead to more aggressive or dangerous behavior from both drivers.

Bottom Line

Pickup truck drivers tailgate for the same reasons other drivers do, whether to pressure other drivers to accelerate, to pass more safely, or as just a matter of carelessness. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to remember that tailgating is dangerous and can cause collisions, especially in poor road conditions. 

If you’re a tailgater, try to correct this risky habit.

If you’re being tailgated, stay calm and continue driving as safely as possible.

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