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How close is too close when following another vehicle?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Most tailgating accidents are preventable. All the person in the vehicle behind has to do is stay far enough back.

Provided they are far enough back, paying attention and alert, they will have enough time to react to almost anything the driver in front does. Thus avoiding the kinds of rear-end collisions that can occur when people are too close or not alert to what the driver in front is doing.

So how far back should you stay?

You should never be closer than three seconds behind

Three seconds might sound like an odd way to describe distance, but there are good reasons that road safety experts recommend a minimum following distance of three seconds. Firstly, it is much easier to count in seconds than measure in meters. Secondly, the number of meters you would need to be would vary according to your speed. 

When you count to three, your distance automatically changes without you needing to recalculate. If you stay three seconds behind when traveling very slowly, the distance will be short, but that’s OK, as you don’t have much speed to lose.

If the traffic speeds up, you’ll require a greater stopping distance, but provided you stay at least three seconds back, you should have it.

You may need to add a few more seconds on occasions

Sometimes, you need to increase the number of seconds you count due to poor visibility, poor traction or because you are not feeling wide awake. Six or eight seconds might be better in such cases.

Doing your bit to maintain a safe distance reduces the chance you crash into someone else. But it cannot do much to prevent someone else from crashing into you from behind. In that case, you’d need to learn more about your legal options.