A safe following distance is one of the golden rules of being a smart driver. It helps you maintain a steady speed and gives you time and space to decelerate or accelerate smoothly when needed. It also provides an escape route if you need to get out of trouble. But what constitutes a safe following distance, and how do you measure it? Here are some top tips.
The minimum following distance you should leave in good conditions is three seconds. To measure your following distance, wait until the back of the vehicle in front passes a fixed object – such as a tree or bridge – then count, one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand. If you reach the object before you’ve finished counting, you’re too close!
It can take twice as long to stop on wet roads, which means you should double your following distance when driving in the rain. The same advice applies if visibility decreases due to fog or darkness.
In very poor driving conditions, such as snow, ice, and heavy rain, it can take up to ten times as long to stop. This means holding back even further and adjusting your following distance to suit conditions.
This can be tricky! It’s highly likely that at some point you’ll be traveling at a safe distance from the vehicle in front, then another driver will pull in front of you. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated if this happens! Simply hang back until you can once again establish a safe following distance.
Unfortunately, not all drivers leave a safe following distance, and you’ve no doubt experienced other vehicles traveling too closely behind you (tailgating). One option is to try changing lanes (if possible) to let the tailgater pass. Avoid hitting the accelerator and speeding up to try to increase the following distance. Instead, increase your following distance from the vehicle in front and maintain a safe speed.
The FIA SDC is a global challenge that rewards smart, safe and eco-friendly driving. It encourages drivers to think about how they can make their driving smarter, through techniques such as planning their route, adjusting their driving to suit the weather conditions, and always keeping a safe following distance.
Read more about the challenge here.