Following at a Safe Distance

Author: R. Christopher Jones, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

Vehicles are becoming more sophisticated every year as automakers introduce more equipment aimed at creating a safer driving experience.  Recently, crash prevention systems have been introduced to reduce rear-end collisions, and for good reason - the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that over 40% of the car accidents on U.S. roads (2.5 million) are rear-enders. In some vehicles, the technology is so advanced that they can brake automatically to avoid objects. In the future, these automated systems may become standard equipment.  Until that day, drivers must take affirmative steps to avoid these dangerous and expensive crashes, which cause 1,700 fatalities and 500,000 injuries each year. [1]

Rear-end collisions are so prevalent because drivers do not give themselves enough time or distance to perceive and react safely to slowing or stopped traffic. These mishaps typically occur during rush-hour traffic due to tailgating.  Fortunately, these accidents can be curtailed considerably if drivers follow a few simple techniques.

As a general rule, the greater the following distance you have between you and the vehicle in front of you, the more time and space you will have to manoeuvre. A proper cushion also allows for greater vision of the road ahead.  Safe following distances vary depending on:

  • Speed - Faster speeds require longer stopping distances
  • Driving conditions - rain, fog, ice, or snow might require a bigger cushion
  • Type of vehicle – heavier vehicles require more stopping distance than lighter vehicles

Drivers should remain at least 2 car lengths behind the vehicle in front during ideal conditions. Under poor conditions, drivers should double their following distance.  Even brief rain showers may contribute to slippery road conditions. Bridges and overpasses may become slick in cold weather before other road surfaces. Drivers who operate larger, heavier trucks, or who have objects in tow, should also increase the gap between themselves and vehicles ahead.

Drivers can use the time-lapse method to keep a safe distance by picking a stationary object on the side of the road, such as a traffic sign or mile marker. When the rear of the vehicle ahead passes the object, the driver begins to count, “1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2”.  The method is properly executed when the front of the driver’s vehicle passes the object after the count is completed.  Drivers should maintain a minimum of a 3 second gap between vehicles.

While it may be difficult to follow these methods in heavy traffic, they can help drivers stay out of trouble when unexpected hazards arise.

If you have been injured due to a rear end collision, contact the Allen Law Firm at 1-866-388-1307.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2015/06/08/there-are-about-1-7-million-rear-end-collisions-on-u-s-roads-each-year-heres-how-to-stop-them/?utm_term=.de1c3d061e5b

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