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Following Distances and Road Crashes

Following Distances

The Dangers of Tailgating / Insufficient Following Distances

Most rear-end collisions are caused when drivers do not obey sufficient following distances. This is also known as Tailgating- often regarded as a form of aggressive driving behavior. In South Africa, with the high prevalence of road rage, tailgating might contribute towards retaliation by other drivers and initiate instances of road rage.

Adequate following distances enable drivers to adjust in emergency situations and bring their vehicles to a stop safely – time that could mean the difference between life and death.

Total stopping distance involves the following:

International studies have indicated that when a driver follows another vehicle at 100 kilometers per hour and the vehicle in front suddenly applies the brakes, the driver following will need about one and a half seconds to react. If there is not enough distance between the vehicles – the driver following would not be able to stop.

A driver should stay alert at all times as abrupt stopping could be caused by a variety of unforeseen events such as:

The 2-3 Second Rule

Most International road safety campaigns refer to the “2" or "3" Second Rule” as a guideline for safe following distances. A point on the road is noted, 2-3 seconds are counted, and if that point is still visible then there's probably enough following distance.

We agree with the National Safety Council that a three-second rule -- with increases of one second per factor of driving difficulty -- is more appropriate

The 2-3 Second Rule is applied as follows: 

Adjusting Following Distance

The 2-3 Second Rule is only the advised measure when driving conditions are ideal. This should be seen as a bare minimum and should be adjusted to at least 5-6 Seconds in the following situations:

Avoiding Tailgaters

Always drive defensively and focus on your safety and the safety of those around you. Don't allow yourself to be tailgated—change lanes or adjust your speed to encourage tailgaters to pass you.

If someone cuts into your space, take a deep breath, simply back off a little and regain enough space –what counts is your safety!

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