Following too close to the vehicle in front of yours will increase the chances that you’ll crash into the back of it. Drivers can slow or brake suddenly, and the closer you are, the less time you’ll have to notice and react by braking yourself.
Once you understand what a safe following distance is, you will see how clear it is that many drivers don’t.
Start with three seconds
Judging distance can be difficult, so the recommended guidance is to forget about trying to do so and instead focus on leaving a minimum time gap. You should never be closer than three seconds from the car in front. To calculate this, pick a point on the road ahead. When the vehicle in front clears that point, start counting, “one thousand, two thousand, three thousand.” If you reach the point before you get to three, slow down.
Increase the distance when needed
There are two reasons you may need to increase an average time gap. Firstly, if anything could lengthen the time you take to notice the brake lights and react, it’s time to adjust. For instance, you are tired, your kids are distracting you or visibility is poor.
Secondly, if anything affects the ability of your vehicle to stop quickly, you’ll also need to make a change. This could include your tires nearing the end of their life, wet leaves or loose gravel on the road, rain falling or a likelihood of icy patches.
In these cases, you may want to increase a follow gap to six seconds or even more. The beauty of counting seconds, aside from its simplicity, is that it self-adjusts for speed. The faster you go, the greater the distance three seconds will put you from the car in front, which is good because braking takes longer at speed.
If someone hits you from behind because they were not maintaining a safe following distance, you should be able to claim compensation. Seeking legal guidance can help to ensure you get the full amount you are entitled to.