Car Accidents

Stay Out of My Rear! How Close is Too Close When Driving?

Tailgating is a fact of life but in many states, it can cost you an accident.

Tailgating is a fact of life but in many states, it can cost you an accident. Drivers are required to perform reasonable care on the road. You have the responsibility to drive safely to ensure the safety of others.

A driver that follows too closely and rear-ends the vehicle in front of them is always liable in an accident. To keep you from experiencing this situation, here are a few tips on tailgating, response times, and how to be a more proactive driver.

Response Times

It takes an average of 1.5 seconds to respond to an unexpected hazard while driving. This is making the assumption that the driver is paying attention, and not texting or messing with the dashboard. If your eyes aren’t even on the road, response times will take much longer.

Stopping Distance

Traveling at the speed of 55 miles per hour, under ideal conditions, it takes a minimum of 419 feet to stop. This distance can be drastically increased if the road is wet, brakes are worn, you are distracted, and a variety of other factors.

The standard advice is to always put three seconds of space between yourself and all other surrounding vehicles. If a driver is tailgating, at best, there is only a second of distance. That makes it nearly impossible to respond in time and creates an incredibly dangerous driving condition.

Wait, Was I Tailgating?

Many people may not even realize they are “riding” the person in front of them. The radio is up, it’s a nice day, you’re eating a sandwich…there’s a million reasons why you may not notice. However, that’s a million different chances to cause an accident.

It turns out, tailgating is actually a traffic violation. When many drivers are asked about what a safe distance is, the answer is often “I don’t know.” 

Although society may label tailgaters as aggressive drivers, that’s not usually the case. The truth is, most of the time, it’s simply people like you and me, not paying enough attention. Although that lacks a hostile motive, it’s equally dangerous behavior.

Safety at All Times

Plan ahead for any conditions that may require you to increase stopping distances. This includes icy, wet, and snow-covered areas and roads that have a higher potential for hazards such as work zones.

When faced with adverse weather or poor visibility at night, reduce speed to the point that will allow you to make a safe stop in the distance you are able to see in front of you. Drivers should slow down and use caution when approaching railroad crossings or highways. This is especially the case when following school buses or hazmat trucks. 

How to Measure Following Distance

At speeds below 30 mph, a following distance of 2-3 seconds might give you enough time to avoid an unexpected hazard. However, a 4 second following distance is recommended for maximum safety.

If you’re not sure how to measure following distance, watch when the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes by a sign, pole, or other stationary point. Then, count the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot. 

The 2-Second Rule

The 2-second rule is useful when you’re traveling at most speeds. It is equal to 1 vehicle length for every 5 mph of your current speed. So if you’re traveling at 40 mph, 8 car lengths away from the next vehicle, is a sufficient amount of space to stop without any repercussions. 

Vehicle weight also plays a role in your ability to stop on time. A heavy vehicle requires more energy to stop. However, it may have more increased traction than an empty one, and thus more stopping power. 

How to Safely Deal With a Tailgater

If you find yourself in front of a tailgater, don’t overreact or get angry. That’s the worst thing you can do. Instead, try to remember these few tips:

  • Keep your distance. Try to change lanes if possible.
  • Get out of the way and stay calm.
  • Maintain a consistent speed. Don’t slam on your brakes.
  • Don’t become a tailgater yourself.

And lastly, never try to police the roadway. This type of behavior can also cause an accident. 

Going the Distance

If you’re a driver that hasn’t given much thought to your following distance, we challenge you to measure it on your next drive. You may be surprised at your own habits. Allowing a few more seconds is a fair enough trade for keeping yourself and everyone else safer on the road.