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Time and again, rear-end collisions take the top prize for being the most common type of vehicle accident. That’s why how to keep a proper following distance when driving can never be overemphasized.

Fancy this. You are driving, with 2 seconds between you and the car in front. Suddenly, the car in front stops without even signaling. Maybe it spotted a deer that just jumped across the road, or a drunken or suicidal pedestrian ran to the road.

Why Keep a Following Distance?

It could also be that the car in front developed a serious mechanical problem. Anything can happen to the car in front.

Because you were not expecting the sudden stop, it takes 2 seconds to register in your mind, one second for your brain to trigger the right response, and another one for you to press the emergency brake, which takes another second to pull the car.

The car takes half a second to come to a halt. Now, remember only 2 seconds separated you from the car in front. It means by the time your car actually stops, it already rammed into the car in front 2.5 seconds ago.

If it’s a serious accident, you may not be conscious by the time your car stops. That’s why seconds mean so much on the road.

What else have we learned here? When an incidence occurs, your reaction is not automatic, and so it cannot be as instantaneous as you would hope for.

Other factors come to play: reaction time, braking time, and stopping distance.

Reaction Time

This is the time it takes you to beware of and react to the potential danger ahead of you. We have seen how the few seconds you have could be critical.

Braking Distance

It is the distance your car travels before coming to a full stop when you apply the brake. The difference may be as short as milliseconds but long enough to run you into danger literally.

Stopping Distance

This is now the sum of time from the moment you perceive a potential danger to the time your car stops. Therefore, the stopping distance should accommodate all the chain of reactions that leads to stopping to avoid the danger. These are: the reaction time/distance and braking distance.

The stopping distance, in turn, determines the following distance. The longer your stopping distance, the wider your following distance should be.

What is the Safe Distance between You and the car in front?

In everyday situations, you should maintain three seconds between your car’s front bumper and the car in front’s rear bumper.

It has been calculated and certified that 3 seconds is enough for you to react in time to stop your car before colliding with the car in front. That is, in normal circumstances when the road is clear, dry, smooth and your car is in the best condition.

How Can You Mentally Measure Following Distance?

Do you have to keep checking the time to ascertain that you are indeed maintaining the proper following distance? Not always. In fact, checking the time could be counter-productive, especially on a busy road. You might end up breaking another traffic rule while immersed in the proper following distance.

Here is the trick that works perfectly for many drivers determined to keep the right following distance while keen to avoid messing in other areas:

But there are other factors to consider when deciding the right following distance. It is not always 3 seconds come rain or shine.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Following Distance

Wrap Up

The very act of driving bears a considerable amount of risk, even when the law is on your side. When you fail to keep the proper following distance, you multiply the risk.

Always keep a safe following distance for your and other road users’ safety.

At Pierre Paul Driving School, we teach students the importance of safe driving, of which keeping proper following distance is just one. Contact us today if you would like to refresh your traffic knowledge and learn new tricks.