Maintaining a Space Cushion

Space around your vehicle gives you distance to react in emergencies and avoid a crash.  Create a space cushion around your vehicle by staying the middle of your lane. Make sure there is enough room ahead of your vehicle and behind it for other vehicles to pass or stop safely.  Use the two-, three- and four-second rule to determine if you are following far enough behind the vehicle ahead of you.

following distance

Here’s how the following distance rule works:

  • Glance at the vehicle ahead as it passes a fixed object, such as an overpass, sign, fence, corner or other fixed mark.
  • Begin counting the seconds it takes you to reach the same place in the road.
  • If you reach the mark before you have counted off two, three, or four seconds, depending on speed, you’re following too closely. Slow down and increase your following distance.
  • For bad weather conditions, heavy traffic, poor pavement of if your vehicle is in poor condition, add extra seconds to increase your following distance.

Drivers need to change following distance when speed or road conditions change.  Hand response time is close to half second.  Foot response time is normally three-quarters of a second.  This does not take into account any delay in perception time as a result of the driver being tired, on medication, distracted, etc.  Road conditions, speed, driver alertness, and even following vehicles of different weights all change the ability to stop.

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