Maintaining a safe following distance between motor vehicles is crucial for preventing car accidents. Adequate distance can allow a driver to stop in time to avoid colliding with another car in changing roadway situations. Understanding what a “safe” distance between two cars is can help you reduce your risk of getting into an accident while driving.
The Three-Second Rule
The established best practice for keeping a safe following distance while driving is the three-second rule. A driver should leave at least three seconds of distance between his or her vehicle and the vehicle in front. Find a fixed object down the road in front of your vehicle while driving, such as a sign or landmark. Then, count to three. If you pass the fixed object before you make it to three, you need to increase your following distance. There should be at least three seconds of space between you and the person in front of you at all times.
Circumstances That Require Increased Following Distance
Under Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 28-730, no driver of a motor vehicle should follow another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent” based on the speed of surrounding vehicles, traffic and the conditions of the highway. This means that while the three-second rule is typically sufficient, the following distance may need to be increased in certain circumstances.
- Large trucks: large and heavy vehicles require more stopping distance. If you are operating a big rig, increase your stopping distance to allow more time to brake. You should also increase the amount of space in front of you if you are driving behind a large truck.
- Heavy traffic: on congested roads with stop-and-go traffic, increase your following distance to decrease the risk of a rear-end collision. When vehicles start and stop suddenly, the odds of a rear-end collision are increased.
- Bad weather: in dangerous weather conditions such as rain, sleet, snow or fog, it is important to increase your following distance. Your vehicle may not be able to break as quickly or efficiently as it could on a dry road. In addition, your visibility may be compromised.
- Vulnerable road users: if you are driving behind a vulnerable road user – such as a bicyclist, motorcyclist or pedestrian – increase your following distance to help keep the individual safe. If you wish to pass, leave at least three feet of space.
- Vehicles that make frequent stops: always increase your following distance when behind a vehicle that makes frequent stops, such as a mail truck, delivery vehicle or school bus. This can allow you more time to prevent a rear-end collision.
As a driver, you should always be alert, pay attention to the road and assess your surroundings. If you detect any dangerous conditions or potential hazards, reduce your speed and increase your following distance to stay safe.
Beware of Tailgaters
A driver who knowingly fails to maintain a safe following distance is a tailgater. Being tailgated is dangerous and puts you at high risk of being rear-ended by the aggressive driver. In this situation, change lanes as quickly as is practicable to allow the other driver to pass you. If the driver is driving recklessly or erratically, keep a safe distance and notify the police. If you get injured in a crash that reasonably could have been avoided had the other driver maintained a safe distance, contact a personal injury lawyer in Surprise for advice. You may be entitled to financial compensation from the other driver’s car insurance company.