Tailgating (N.J.S.A. 39:4-89) is the second leading cause of car accidents in New Jersey, second only to speeding. Accordingly, New Jersey law is very harsh on those cited for tailgating in the state.
N.J.S.A. provides that: “The driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent….” This obviously begs the question, how close is too close? Unfortunately, that often comes to a subjective determination by the officer who issued your ticket.
In one published case, Pagano v. McClammy, 159 N.J. Super. 581 (1978), it was held that a defendant who was driving 40 miles p/h and was following another vehicle fro a distance of approximately 15 to 20 feet was tailgating.
A driver convicted of tailgating will be assessed 5 motor vehicle and insurance points. This could easily lead to thousands of dollars in increased insurance premiums and surcharges, if not your being dropped by your insurance company altogether. The fine will be up to $200. You can even be sent to jail for up to 15 days.
It is therefore crucial to retain an attorney experienced in Municipal Court practice, preferably a local lawyer who frequently appears before the judge and prosecutor in the town you were pulled over in.