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What is a safe following distance?

On Behalf of | Oct 4, 2023 | Motor vehicle accidents |

One of the most important things that drivers can do is to maintain a safe following distance. This gives them enough reaction time if they need to stop their vehicle. Drivers can never predict when something unexpected will occur – like a child dashing into the road after a ball – and so they need to give themselves this buffer zone to react and keep everyone safe.

Most people know that they shouldn’t tailgate because it’s dangerous, and they may even know that it’s illegal. But the problem is that they don’t know exactly what tailgating looks like. What should the following distance actually be?

Give yourself three seconds

If you’re trying to gauge this in the car, just count off the time after the car ahead of you passes a stationary object or a set point on the road. Your car should not pass that same point for at least three seconds.

This may give you more physical distance than you anticipated. But the thing to remember is that it takes time to realize that you need to hit the brakes, and it takes time to move your foot to the brake pedal. Even in the best case, you will probably press the brakes after about 1.5 seconds. So even if you have a three-second gap, you still only have another 1.5 seconds to stop your vehicle. This is why a shorter following distance is very dangerous. It feels fine when traffic is moving smoothly, but it is just not enough space when necessary.

Unfortunately, you can maintain the right following distance and drive safely, and you can still be hit and injured by another driver. If their negligence caused you to suffer injuries, then you need to know how to seek financial compensation.