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The importance of a three-second following distance

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

If you want to stay safe while you drive, there are many steps you can take, from driving with your lights on at all times to staying off of your phone to becoming an active defensive driver. While nothing guarantees that someone else won’t cause a crash, you can do your part.

One critical step is to always make sure you have three seconds of space when following another car. You can determine how far back you are by looking at the lines on the road or the signs on the shoulder and simply counting off time between vehicles. This helps to adjust the distance depending on your speed, so it’s better to use time than actual space — such as 10 yards.

Why does this matter so much?

Clearly, you’re doing this to avoid rear-ending that car, but why does the distance matter? After all, you’re traveling at the same speed. If that driver hits their brakes, so will you, and you should both stop in time, right?

That’s great in theory, but reaction times are just not that reliable. The front driver will push the brakes and you’ll see their lights come on — not to mention seeing them start to slow down — but your own foot won’t instantly be on your own brake pedal. This delay, your reaction time, can cause an accident if you’re too close.

You also have to consider things like the size and weight of the vehicle. This is why semitruck drivers often leave more than three seconds. Even if they reacted instantly, they just can’t slow down as fast as a sedan or another passenger car, so they need the extra distance.

What if someone else rear-ends your car?

You can only control your own following distances. Someone behind you may not leave enough space, and they may end up causing an accident that you know they could have avoided. If you get injured in this crash, you must know how to seek compensation. It can cover your medical bills, your lost wages and any other costs that stem from the accident.