How can you ensure that you're driving safely and not traveling too closely to the car in front of you? Follow the safe driving distance laws and count to three.
Tailgating should be happening in parking lots at sports events or concerts – not on the highway, city road, or private road. Too many drivers are in too big of a hurry and believe that if they get closer to the car in front of them, it will motivate that person to drive faster – this isn't true. In fact, what generally happens is the car in front sees the behavior as aggressive driving, and they tend to slow down.
Traveling too closely to the car in front of you is dangerous to both you and the other vehicle. If the driver in front has to slam on their brakes for whatever reason, you don't have the time to react and avoid the collision. According to the U.S. Department of Public Safety, tailgating is the fifth leading cause of all car accidents, which is sad because there are hundreds of programs to learn safe driving tips that will keep you and your family safe on the road.
Old Safe Driving Distances
This issue has been around since automobiles were invented and there have been many different methods for calculating a safe driving distance taught over the years. For example, if you took a driver's education course, say, 20 years ago you were probably taught to leave one car length between you and the car in front of you for every 10 mph you were traveling. The people that came up with this method certainly had their thoughts in the right place, but determining what a car length is can be disputed by anyone; not to mention that could be difficult to calculate while driving if you're not someone that is great at math.
A better method that was taught to students about five-ten years ago is the two-second rule. According to this rule, your car should pass a stationary object two seconds after the vehicle in front of you has passed it. While this seemed to be a much better way to back off from other drivers, it simply did not allow enough time to react if need be, or allow enough time for the brakes to work if you did react right away.
The 3-Second Rule
The rule of thumb that is being taught in driver's training today is the three second rule. It works in the same way as the two second rule, but it allows adequate time for your brakes to stop your car. You can calculate this distance by choosing an inanimate object, like a highway sign, mailbox or tree, and when the car in front of you passes that object count, "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand," and if you passed the object before you got to three, you are tailgating the vehicle in front of you.
Staying three seconds behind another automobile is the best practice to get into, but adjust the time according to the weather and road conditions.
- 3 seconds – Use this rule for speeds of 35-55mph when the weather is good and the roads are dry
- 6 seconds - This practice should be implemented when traveling at speeds over 55mph or when there is rain or heavy traffic
- 9 seconds – This is imperative when there is heavy snow and/or ice on the roads because your car needs a lot more time to slow down and come to a stop
Remember that your car is a large piece of metal, often times weighing above 3,000lbs, and can has the ability to cause serious injury or death to you or someone else. This will help you to also remember to stay at least three seconds behind someone. This is the time your vehicle needs to come to an abrupt stop if someone happens to slam on their breaks.
If You're Being Tailgated…
You can only control yourself when you're on the road, and every now and then you will be the tailgatee, not the tailgater, so what do you do in that situation? If you believe the car behind you is too close for comfort you can do one of the following:
- Move over to another lane to allow the tailgater to pass you
- Turn off of the road and wait for them to pass you
- Tap the brakes a few times to warn the driver that they are getting too close
- If all else fails, use the old-fashioned arm out the window to wave them around you
Many people who are being tailgated will put their flashers or turn signals on to try and get the person to go around them, but this is a ticketable offense. If a police officer sees you doing this without actually turning or having an issue with your vehicle, they could issue you an impeding traffic ticket, as well as issue the tailgater a reckless or careless driving ticket. The best practice to use is to pull over or change lanes and allow them to pass you. It's the safest and the least likely to cause road rage in the other driver which could result in a big problem.
As We See It
Many of the rear-end collisions that happen throughout the United States each year are caused by driver's not following at a safe driving distance, and not allowing themselves enough time to stop the car. These statistics could lower greatly and less people would be injured each year if we all follow the three-second rule. Nothing good will come from tailgating your fellow drivers and you certainly won't arrive at your location any sooner, so slow down, back up, and enjoy your drive.
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