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Space Safe Distance and Tailgating

A common cause of driver frustration and of vehicle-vehicle collisions lies in driver failure to observe some common-sense rules about safe distance.

Mobility and safety on the road cannot be achieved without drivers exercising focus as well as patience. You should be alert and continuously scan your surroundings, always keeping a safe following distance as driving too close affects both your perception and your reaction time.

Rear-end collisions comprise nearly a quarter of all collisions, and are mostly caused by tailgating so, to avoid damage and injury, practice the following simple rule: pick a stationary object like a sign or marking on the road, note when the car in front passes it, then count slowly to 3. If you pass the same marking before the count of 3, you are too close.

The distance should be increased to at least 4 seconds in adverse weather conditions, at night, and whenever road conditions are such that your perception and reaction times may be affected. In addition, when tailgated, you will need to allow extra space between your car and the vehicle in front, increasing the safe distance to compensate for the lack of a safety cushion in case you need to make a sudden stop.

A fact many drivers ignore, or simply do not know, is that stopping times are directly proportional to your vehicle’s weight and size, which means that a big rig may take double the time it takes a passenger car to stop. This is something to bear in mind whether you are driving a heavier vehicle, or participate in traffic with such vehicles.

Note also that some more extreme forms of tailgating can be classified as road rage, most constitute a traffic violation or are classified by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as aggressive driving, and none are safe.

To maintain the safety cushion around your vehicle, avoid making any sudden lane changes or changes in speed and distance from the other cars, be aware of the overall flow of traffic around you and try to fit in safely.

Make sure you have adequate space on all sides, keeping in mind other drivers’ and your own blind spots, and do your best to avoid tailgating. If someone is tailgating you, do your best to allow them to pass you safely, or alternatively stop or change lanes. As always, you will need to adjust distance to different road conditions, and different participants in traffic.

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