Safe Following Distances When Driving

Posted on : August 23, 2017

In order to prevent car accidents, drivers are encouraged to maintain a considerable distance from cars in front of them. Allowing a safe following distance will almost always guarantee an escape route, decreasing the chances of car accidents dramatically.

Legally, it is recommended that cars maintain a reasonable following distance so that drivers have enough time to stop in the case of an emergency. Defensive drivers maintain a safe following distance of at least 3 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. A following distance should increase depending on other conditions. Drivers may determine following 3 seconds behind vehicles by choosing a fixed object, such as a tree or bridge. Once the rear bumper of the vehicle in front of you crosses that object, begin counting: one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, and so on. If you do not reach one-thousand two by the time your front bumper reaches the fixed object, increase the following distance. Remember, this is the minimum recommended following distance, so allowing more distance improves safety for both vehicles involved. 

When driving in inclement weather such as heavy winds, rain, or snow, increase following distance to a minimum of six seconds. Additionally, allow yourself more time to arrive at the destination during such conditions, which will likely relax your driving techniques, creating more space between you and the vehicle you are following. 

When driving through heavy traffic, maintaining a safe distance may become more challenging as other drivers may attempt to cut in front of you. This instance would cut the gap between you and the vehicle you are following. Do not become angry, but rather adjust to the situation and create more space between you, and the new vehicle you are following behind. 

Contrary to popular belief, keeping a safe following distance when driving does not cost time. Imagine for each car that cuts you, this adds 5 seconds to your driving time. Even if you are cut off 50 times from origin to destination, this adds a total of 4 minutes extra to your driving time. Because it is unlikely that you are cut off 50 times during one trip, the minimal 4 minutes (or less) is drastically less costly than getting into a car accident.

In addition to allowing enough space between you and the preceding vehicle, it is essential to allow space on the sides of your vehicle. Although creating escape routes on the side of your vehicle is more challenging, being aware of all surrounding vehicles is likely to prevent a dangerous accident from occurring. 

When driving, remember to allow at least 3 seconds following time, and a minimum of 6 seconds during inclement weather. In inclement weather, allow yourself more time to arrive at your destination. In the event of being cut-off in heavy traffic, adjust to the situation and accept that vehicles may use your safe following space to drive in. A safe following distance does not cost time, especially not a significant amount of time in comparison to the detrimental costs car accidents cost. Adhering to these safe driving following distances and rules are likely to decrease the risk of a car accident, and should be followed every time you get behind the wheel. 

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