A number of automotive crashes occur each year due to semitrailers following passenger vehicles too closely on interstate highways and secondary roads. This hazardous practice, called tailgating, accounted for over 40% of the 110,000 trailer-passenger vehicle crashes recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2010. Tailgating is difficult to detect and document using visual methods and law enforcement agencies must depend on trained officers, whose abilities may be limited. In this paper, a proposed tailgating detection system, mounted to the officer’s patrol vehicle, continuously monitors both passenger and commercial vehicles, as the officer travels down the roadway. A rotating laser range-finding sensor feeds information to a microprocessor that continuously searches for the occurrence of tailgating. A weighting algorithm determines when a tailgating event has definitively occurred to reduce system sensitivity. If an event is detected, the officer is notified with audio and visual cues. A time stamped record including all relevant system information for later use in legal prosecution is also produced. In a virtual case study, the computer generated roadway environment was populated with vehicles of varying velocity and location. The numerical results show that the detection algorithm was able to successfully locate all of the virtual vehicles and accurately determine tailgating events under a number of different simulation conditions.

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