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How to measure a vehicle’s following distance

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2024 | Car Accidents

Tailgating is illegal, but it is often referred to as “following too closely.” The reasoning here is that driving too close to the next vehicle increases the accident odds, and so it is prohibited. A safe driver will maintain a “reasonably safe and prudent” following distance.

But simply saying that tailgating is prohibited does not tell drivers what type of following distance they should seek. What is reasonably safe? Who decides? How far should that following distance be and how do you calculate it?

Measuring the time

Calculating the actual physical distance is often too difficult. Do you need 100 yards? Maybe 200 yards? There are so many factors involved. It depends on the size and weight of your vehicle, the road conditions and how fast you’re driving.

As such, a good rule of thumb is to measure the time, by counting off three seconds. If you’re driving 20 miles an hour, the physical distance you cover in three seconds is going to be much shorter than it would be if you were driving at 70 miles an hour. This means that using three seconds as your guide for a distance automatically adjusts the gap between vehicles – depending on speed – helping to keep you safe.

To measure this time, just choose a stationary object on the side of the road. After the vehicle ahead of you passes that object, begin counting seconds until your own car passes the same point. Eventually, you will begin to get a sense of what this gap feels like, even without counting the time.

Unfortunately, even when you avoid tailgating, other drivers are still going to do it. If you get injured in a car accident that they cause, you need to know how to seek compensation for your losses.