Keeping the right following distance


Controlling the five zones in which one operates  a vehicle is crucial in maintaining  a safe driving environment.  Yet, to preventing rear end crashes relies on maintaining a safe driving space around the front of your vehicle. It makes you less vulnerable to collisions and is something that drivers can control. 


While many drivers are taught to focus on space — keeping several car lengths between one’s vehicle and the car ahead — a better formula concerns time.


For most drivers, it takes 1.5 seconds (even more if they are using cellphones) to notice a potential risk in front of their vehicle. It takes another 1.5 seconds to react, hit the brakes and slow down.


That’s why the ‘three-second rule’ was born. It ensures that there is always at least three seconds of time between your vehicle and the vehicle just ahead.


The way to do this is so easy. Drivers should wait for the vehicle ahead to pass a set object such as a tree, lamppost, or large rock. Once that vehicle passes it, start counting – one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three. If your vehicle reaches the object before you get to three, your following distance is too close. You then need to adjust it by dropping back a bit.


What’s more, there are times you need to add more seconds to the formula. For example, in bad weather add one second. If driving an SUV fitted with big tyres and carrying a roof top tent, add one second. Large commercial vehicles should add three seconds.


In addition, some experts recommend that following distance should be two times bigger in the winter versus the summer.


Always bear in mind that the faster you drive, the more time and space it takes to stop or manoeuvre your vehicle.


MasterDrive also points out that in addition to speed, there are three other factors impacting on safe driving space. These include:

  • Visibility: if you can’t see at least 12 seconds ahead, you need more following space.
  • Road conditions: it’s always smart to leave more following space when driving around tight curves, over hills, or when obstacles are in the road.
  • Traffic: bear in mind that other motorists may make erratic moves in traffic jams, so a longer following distance is wise.


To learn more about how to maintain the proper following distance, watch the video.


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