How Do I Stop Tailgaters on My Motorcycle?

Read our answer and give us yours

Dear WRN,
I encounter this constantly here in the Denver area, on the urban roads as well as rural two lane roads, that is when cars follow too closely. What is the best way to signal them to back off?
After making a hand signal (not the middle finger LOL!) or head gesture for them to move away, their response is to follow even closer. What can I do?
Shirl Powell
Denver, Colorado

According to what we teach in the MSF Basic RiderCourse, the best way to respond to a tailgater is to create more space in front of you. This way, you have room to maneuver yourself out of the way in an emergency.

If someone is following too closely, and you cant seem to shake them, the best thing to do is to pull over and let them pass. Many drivers are simply oblivious to what a safe following distance is. Dont agitate them with hand gestures, because in a one-on-one showdown, the motorcycle will lose every time.

Ride safe,
Tricia Szulewski
WRN Assistant Editor and MSF RiderCoach

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Now, tell us how you deal with tailgaters in the comments below.

39 thoughts on How Do I Stop Tailgaters on My Motorcycle?

  1. The basic and the real:The basic—move over and let them pass or pick up your pace to create some space. The Real—If you are experiencing this “a lot” you are probably just riding too slow for the roads that you’re on. A common problem I see with some riders and cagers is that they get stuck on the “posted speed limit” when they should be focused on the road, conditions, and riding with the flow of traffic. If the posted limit is 55 but traffic flow is doing 70, you should be doing 70 as well.Trying to maintain 55 in such a situation makes you a doorstop to other vehicles including trucks and buses. That is much more dangerous to you than you matching traffic flow at 15 mph over the posted limit. Don’t hold up traffic. Just move over and then continue your stroll if you insist. You may also need to upgrade your engine size if you feel your bike is straining to keep pace.

  2. I do the same as Fayne W.—a one-time, strong, open-handed push-back gesture with my left hand to motion … “get back.” Then a check in my side mirror. Let’s them know they are too close. It works the majority of the time. If they are still too close, I let them go by. Many people here are saying the same thing … many people aren’t aware they are trying to be your rear passenger, but if push comes to shove, the big boy with four wheels is going to win.Ride safe and keep the gremlins off the bike!

  3. Position yourself so you’re in line with the driver (in Australia, that’s the right-hand side of the lane, in USA it’d be the left).You do this so that you are blocking their view; usually they’re tailgating you because they have a clear view ahead and think they’re safe.Block their view and they tend to drop back.

  4. Most states have laws about impeding traffic or delaying vehicles. So if you’re a slowpoke either move to the right or get off the roadway. If you can get a speeding ticket for going 5 mph or more over the limit you should get an impeding ticket for 5 mph or slower!

  5. Some folks are just in a hurry and don’t appreciate nature. We (wife and I) typically put on our hazards and pull over to right while slowing down to allow them pass. Some still don’t get the point, at which time we pull off at the next opportunity. We allow plenty of forward space for evasive maneuvers. By slowing them down as well, it also improves their reaction times and capabilities (they just don’t realize it). The sooner you shake them, the sooner you can get back to the relaxing ride you meant to have. Allowing them to follow is distracting your forward focus and causes undo stress. We had a car down to 10 mph to find out they were talking on the phone and had no idea how slow they were going.

  6. If someone is tailgating me and I can’t pull over, and if I’m coming up to a situation where I need to slow down, I use the same hand signals as I do when I’m riding in a group—I pump my hand up and down, seems to be a universal sign for slow down. Many are so startled that you did a hand signal, they do slow down, and I’ll keep doing that. It gets their attention and does seem to help them figure it out that they’re way too close.But if I’m in a situation where I can safely pull over, I will first put out my hand and push it backwards in very ‘strong’ way, basically saying back off, but not in a bad way. I’ve done this and cars have actually ‘listened’ and stopped being so close, some don’t know any better. If they continue to tailgate, I will then pull over when it’s safe and have them be on their way, I actually do the same thing when I’m driving a car.

  7. Tap breaks and swerve. Swerving is a good way to be seen. Eyes are attracted to movement and I often do this when I see cars about to pull out. You never know if you’re behind that sign and they can’t see you. Also makes cars uneasy and they will back off or go around. Pull off and let them by.

  8. Practice deference, that is, giving the gift of preference, yielding to another in a courteous manner. This works best for you while avoiding road rage from another.

  9. Let them pass. Get on with your ride. They are on their journey. Don’t let them distract you from yours.

  10. I am really quite saddened to see some of the responses here. You counter unsafe potentially aggressive driving with more unsafe aggressive driving! Be safe, pull over, don’t play games with other motorists, be the bigger person and be safe!

  11. In my town, Ocala – better known as Slowcala – it is made up of mostly retirement communities. I am usually passing everyone so I don’t have that problem. I have, however had the tailgater issue in other areas of the country. In the outlying areas of larger cities, like NY, Denver, Philly, LA, etc., the drivers are very aggressive and cut it close to my backside quite a lot. I usually hit my brake lights to let them know I am, in fact in front of them. If they don’t figure out they are driving too close, I always try to move over. My life is not worth getting my way with a vehicle that can kill me.

  12. I have a super bright flashing break light so I tap that a few times. If I can then I scooch over so they can pass, but if I can’t then I start weaving my bike side to side. This helps to make sure they even see that I am there and it scares them a little (cause they are afraid I’m going to fall) and they usually back off a bit.

  13. I will slow down to slow them down, then I will get back to the speed limit. If they get back on my butt then I will slow down and stay slowed down for longer and try it again. Not saying it’s safe but it usuaully works. I will not go faster for them. It is not worth a ticket.

  14. I’m the president of my own crew. I typically have my road captain in front. And my Sgt. At Arms rides rear to deal with these people, however as a contingency if my Sgt can’t handle I’ll pass my captain (I ride second position), move to the passing lane, brake till I’m at the back, ride aside my Sgt. and signal for him to move forward. I will slow cars down some to 20 in a 55 just by slowly easing off the throttle. Very slowly. Most get some balls and try to pass before then but they always lose. If they start being a prick we will ride three wide hogging both lanes for just a couple minutes, then line back up and they usually get fed up enough they fly pass the whole group and we never see them again. But be careful because I have been nudged before. That’s when they get pennies for their thoughts.

  15. I will tap my brakes, hand gesture for them to slow down or pull off the road if possible. If I can’t pull off I have tossed Skittles at the windshield. That is a last resort.

  16. I got a buddy who carries tiny gravel in his tank strap pouch. When someone tailgates he takes s few out and sprinkles their windshield. Not saying it’s right , but he says it works.

  17. We’ve had several cases recently of people running bikers down from behind. There is no way any bike will win in a physical confrontation with a car. It’s like putting Barney Fife up against The Rock! We will lose. So I will try to signal to back off and as soon as I can I will pull over and signal them to pass. Besides, these days too many people are carrying! Easier to fire it from a car then from a bike and I’m not wearing that kind of body armor, especially in the middle of summer here in Florida!

  18. I give a few taps on brake. My hubby rides with me and has been riding a lot longer so will tell me to come in front.Speeding up is not a good thing to do here in OZ. Our license system is you have so many points — 12 for us. We have lots of mobile cameras, some hidden. Depending on how much faster than the speed limit you are caught going, you get a fine and lose points. For example, hubby got caught 10 km over the limit and lost four points and $AU420 fine. Lose all your points, and lose your license. It takes three years from the date off the offense to get your points back.

  19. I always rode with my CB letters KBTG 1115 on my helmet. They may have thought I was a cop. I never had any problems in all my 30-plus years of riding.

  20. Daniel Sylvester- you are dead wrong sir! I live in a rural area where the main road (one lane each way with no pull-offs and few passing zones) speed limit averages 30 mph. I go an average of about 40, but in a car, some of these fools go 60 to 80mph on deep curing winding roads! An average of two motorcyclists per year lose their lives on this road. The fools who go 60 to 80mph tailgate regularly at 60 to 80mph. I have gone 50mph on my bike in 30mph zones (in straighter areas) as you implied should be done, to get these idiots off my back. They still tailgate! So, you’re telling me that because I won’t go 90mph in a 30mph zone of curves, that I am a “baby cat.” Um. No. You sir, I have another name for. You are much welcome to come here and try your hand at it! I think you are the one who should sell your bike. Your type is giving the rest of us a bad name.

  21. So many times this happens (traffic or not). I give a quick tap-tap on my brake and if that doesn’t back them off I look for a good place and pull over. Hurry on my friend/ I choose to stay safe and stress free!

  22. Always have a few rocks in your pocket or in a pouch on your bike. Drop at an arm’s length away.

  23. Don’t take a mile to pass. Accelerate, wide open. If you can’t accelerate wide open, sell your bike. You are a baby cat.

  24. People are always in a rush and it drives me insane when I’m on the bike. When someone tailgates me, I give the slow down patting of my hand, palm facing down sign and 90 percent of the time people back off. The other 10 percent of the time when people are just idiots. If I have an opportunity at a red light to explain how dangerous tailgating is, I do so in a calm, friendly manner. Most people don’t realize this because they are so accustomed to doing it with cars. Then there are people who just don’t care about us bikers and drive recklessly!!!

  25. I adjust my left rear view mirror in an obvious manner. Maybe they think I’m trying to get a better look at them, but for whatever reason — it works 90 percent of the time. It seems to make them more conscious of how close they really are to me.

  26. I am really lucky in that I rarely ride alone. My husband flanks me, and our two bikes make a bigger visual image then just one motorcycle. However, we both constantly keep an eye in the rear view, and if either of us sees someone coming up fast, we just pull over at the first opportunity and let them by. It is too dangerous on our mountain roads to do otherwise. If people are in that much of a hurry it is just far safer to let them by.That said, there have been a couple of times where Toby has had to do what another commenter mentioned, and get right in front of the driver of the offending car and gradually back him off until I can find a safe place to get us pulled off to the side. I generally set a safe pace, and am always riding the road as conditions and speed limit allow, but some folks are just in a hurry to die (our roads are extremely dangerous) and so I figure better them then me.For the most part, here in California, even when driving down in Southern Calif., where traffic is just hugely busy, I have actually received far more courtesy and kindness from other drivers then you would think. Maybe it is because they like seeing a woman ride, or they get a kick out of the huge grin on my face (I always smile at everyone) or they just enjoy seeing a couple of old farts out enjoying themselves. Whatever it is, I am thankful for the politeness and thoughtfulness I have experienced from those folks when in heavy traffic, especially the really nasty stop-n-go stuff during the heat of the day.

  27. This happened to me just yesterday as I was riding home (solo) from a three-night group rally. I first check my speed to be sure that I am not holding up the works. If my speed isn’t the issue, I tend to tap the brakes a few times allowing the driver to “wake up.” If that doesn’t work, I’ll usually signal that I am pulling off to the right to allow them to pass me. However, yesterday I found myself in a situation with intermittent truck lanes. I couldn’t resist… I just opened her up and left the tailgater in the dust! By the time the truck lane ended, I had many vehicles between us and it was a non-issue!

  28. In case of a single carriageway and when the oncoming traffic situation allows, I have pulled to the left, come off the power (or brake gently) allowing the tailgaiter to move past me on the right. Once a safe distance ensues, I can pull in again and maintain distance. No macho BS required.

  29. Pulling over is the first option; tapping the brakes to make your point is also an option. If pulling over isn’t possible, try to align yourself in front of the driver. They won’t be able to see past you down the road and will invariably, back off. I’ve done this a number of times, and it seems to work.

  30. I try a couple different things depending on the situation. First is to wobble a bit like you are quite sure what you’re doing. And sometimes just twisting around to look at them gives them a reminder to back off. People follow too closely sometimes without thinking and just the look reminds them to make space.Of course with some people nothing works. Then I do what I can to get a car or two between us or let them by.

  31. I’m surprised no one has mentioned a pocket full of pebbles…ONLY JOKING! Seriously, don’t do that. That will just agitate the other driver and you will lose.First, make sure you are doing the speed limit, or at least keeping up with traffic. I know Denver traffic tends to go faster than the speed limit. But even in other places, riding too slowly is just asking for people to tailgate you and/or take risky maneuvers attempting to pass you. This can put both you and the other vehicle—or motorcycle-—at risk of an accident.And always, always, always keep scanning! If you are constantly aware of not only what’s ahead of you but also what’s happening in your rear view mirrors, you won’t be startled by a vehicle coming up behind you quickly or faster motorcycles blowing past you. But still, there are going to be jerks who follow too closely anyway. Most don’t even realize they are doing it. If it’s safe (scanning scanning scanning!) I will “dance” in my lane a little bit, kind of like weaving in and out of a line of imaginary cones, while staying safe and within my riding skills. About 4-5 “weaves” tends to scare the tailgater a bit and they back off. I’ve found that’s a lot more effective than slowing down or attempting to gesture to them to back off or pass.

  32. Many will not like/approve of or understand this, but I have seen and unfortunately experienced tailgating from cage drivers. Arizona is a helmet optional state and I never wear one, but I do always wear proper protective clothing including a denim or leather vest. I always carry several 1/2-3/4 inch nuts in my vest/jacket pocket and I exercise my right to carry in this constitutional carry state. Arizona is very hot, I always have bottled water with me, tailgaters are treated to water being tossed over my shoulder, if that doesnt back them off, I toss a good sized steel nut over my shoulder and their anger usually goes away when they pull up beside me and I smile at them and look down at the firearm on my hip.

  33. I am a new rider and I use my hubby! He rides behind me to ensure that no one gets too close. I’m sure that will end once I am more experienced but for now I am sure glad he has my back!

  34. I leave space in front and when available, move to the side to allow them to pass.I object to Linda Eade above in assuming that because the bike is speeding/reckless – it is a crotch rocket/sport bike. I cannot tell you how many huge dressers have passed me illegally (in my lane) and at speeds way over the speed limit. Every type of bike speeds and drives as reckless as the individual upon it.

  35. I put an old broken GoPro camera on the back of my bike. When people get close enough to see the camera, they back off. They don’t know it’s broken! They just feel uncomfortable being close enough to have their picture taken, and naturally back off.

  36. If I can’t move over to let them pass, I tend to tap on my brakes a couple of times so they notice that “hey, I’m in front of you” as often times, they don’t even know you are really there. I do the same when I’m driving in my car and someone keeps tailgating me. It seems to have helped in most instances and they put a bit more distance between me and their car. I would never gesture with my hand, as that’s just a way to irritate them even more and they may retaliate back.

  37. Where we ride in the mountains of SC, GA, TN and NC, there aren’t any places to pull over. This is not so much a problem with cars, but with other motorcycles, especially crotch rockets. They take unnecessary risks and pass where it’s unsafe and you don’t even know they are behind you when you go around a curve and they bust by you scaring you to death. Usually, I will slow down and pull to the left of the road for them to go by me because I surely don’t want to have them doing something that is dangerous for the both of us. With cars, you can’t always speed up going down a mountain to increase space and when there is a place, I will pull over to let them by if they are in that big of a hurry. The only people who understand a person riding a motorcycle is another motorcyclist except for the speeding, reckless crotch rockets/sport bikes.

  38. What has worked best for me is just moving to the right and waving them past. Sometimes they pass and sometimes they back off!

  39. This happens a lot in LA freeway traffic. I’ve developed several responses: 1) move to a different lane if at all possible. 2) Stand up on the pegs (this seems to freak out many drivers and they back off. 3) Lock the throttle lock and put both hands in the air in a “why me?” position. (This also freaks out drivers and gets them to back off.)

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