We all know the frustrations of driving in front of a tailgater- but experts say you can break the speed limit to avoid them, without getting a fine.

Highways England says 1 in 8 road casualties are caused by people driving too close to the front of a vehicle.

A recent survey by UK car leasing firm Select Car Leasing also found that a third of motorists (32%) claimed that “drivers driving too close behind me” was their biggest road-related fear. 

However, if you break the the speed limit in an attempt to get away a tailgater then you could be able to use “avoiding a tailgater” as a “special reasons” argument in court. 

That’s according to Emma Patterson, principal solicitor at specialist motoring offence lawyers Patterson Law. 

She explained: “We deal with a number of these cases every year in similar circumstances. It’s not as uncommon as you might think.

“Simply put, on occasions the court will agree that there are special reasons for not imposing penalty points or discretionary disqualification based on somebody tailgating the offending driver, and them needing to speed up briefly in order to extricate themselves from a potentially dangerous situation.

“It flows from a guilty plea, as part of the sentencing exercise, and empowers the magistrates not to give penalty points or discretionary disqualification.”

If you do end being caught breaking the speed limit because you’re running scared of a tailgater, you need to convince the court you had no other alternative than to put your foot down. 

Emma said: “We can argue ‘special reasons’ to avoid penalty points or disqualification in similar circumstances – whether that involves another driver or an unmarked police vehicle doing the ‘tailgating’.

“A special reasons argument is like a mini trial in relation to sentencing.  

“It has to relate to why the offence occurred, rather than mitigating circumstances in relation to the individual’s personal predicament or need to be able to drive. 

“If the magistrates agree that there are special reasons then they will not impose any penalty points or discretionary disqualification."

She added that these arguments succeed better when there is no alternative and this was the only thing the driver could do to remove themselves from a dangerous situation.   

Emma says you might be able to argue a similar defence if you break the speed limit briefly in order to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle.

'The courts do recognise just how intimidating tailgating can be' 

Meanwhile, Mark Tongue of Select Car Leasing says the guidance could offer reassurance to the millions of motorists who are often caught like a rabbit in the headlights when faced with an aggressive tailgater. 

He said: “This isn’t about giving carte blanche to motorists so that they can break the speed limit at the first sign of an approaching car. 

“But it is reassuring to know that the courts do recognise just how intimidating tailgating can be, and that they also recognise that a motorist might wish to take evasive action in order to get away from the offender and rid themselves of a potentially life-threatening situation. 

“Knowing that it can be reasonable to break the law, albeit briefly, so you can move into a different lane, may give some shred of comfort to the millions of motorists blighted by these so-called ‘space invaders’.”

What are the laws around tailgating?

Punishments for tailgating range from a £100 fine and three penalty points, to a driving ban- there is even a prison sentence if the tailgating causes an accident. 

The Highway Code states that you should leave a two-second gap between cars. The two seconds are made up of the time needed for thinking and stopping. And when it’s raining, that gap should be at least doubled.

Highways England also launched a ‘Space Invaders’ campaign last year, urging motorists to take greater care with their stopping distances. 

A spokesperson said at the time: “We know that if you get too close to the car in front, you won’t be able to react and stop in time if they brake suddenly.

“Tailgating also makes the driver in front feel targeted and victimised, distracting their attention from the road ahead and making them more likely to make a mistake.

“If that leads to a collision, then people in both vehicles could end up seriously injured or dead.”

“We want everyone to travel safely, so the advice is - stay safe, stay back.”