Maintain a safe following distance (The 3 second rule)

(Photo submitted)

(Photo submitted)

No one likes to be tailgated, yet millions of people do it every day. Some do it because they are running late or impatient, while others tailgate out of spite or “road rage.”

Still others follow too closely out of sheer ignorance of its dangers.

Tailgating is by far one of the most dangerous habits a driver can pick up. Drivers are at the highest risk of rear-ending a vehicle when they are following less than 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front of them. When drivers have to stop abruptly, tailgaters are often left with little or no time to brake.

Following too closely to the vehicle in front of you is asking for trouble, but fortunately there are some ways you can avoid a tailgating accident.

Good weather – During daylight with good, dry roads and low traffic volume, you can ensure you’re a safe distance from the car ahead of you by following the “three-second rule.” The distance changes at different speeds. To determine the right following distance, first select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand.” If you reach the object before completing the count, you’re following too closely. Making sure there are three seconds between you and the car ahead gives you time and distance to respond to problems in the lane ahead of you.

Inclement weather, heavy traffic, or night-time driving – In heavy traffic, at night, or when weather conditions are not ideal (eg. light rain, light fog, light snow), double the three second rule to six seconds, for added safety.

Poor weather – If the weather conditions are very poor, eg. heavy rain, heavy fog, or heavy snow, start by tripling the three second rule to nine seconds to determine a safe following distance.

Tailgating – Following a vehicle too closely is called ‘tailgating’. Tailgating is an aggressive driving behaviour that is easily mistaken for road rage. Use the three-second rule to avoid tailgating. Most rear end collisions are caused by the vehicle in back following too closely. If someone is tailgating you, move to another lane or turn off the road as soon as possible and allow the tailgating vehicle to pass.


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