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How much of a following distance should drivers maintain?

Tailgating is a common cause of rear-end car accidents. The person in the following car may be tailgating on purpose, intentionally driving aggressively or trying to get the other driver to speed up. But they may also be oblivious, thinking that the following distance is enough to keep them safe and only finding out at the last second that it is not.

So what should the following distance look like? What is really required to keep people safe?

The three-second rule

As a general rule, drivers should always focus on leaving at least three seconds between vehicles, and it may even be better to leave four. Drivers who are leaving just one or two seconds do not have enough time.

The issue is that reactions are slower and more complex than people realize. For instance, studies have found that drivers take 0.75 seconds just to perceive the need to hit the brakes. They take another 0.75 seconds to physically move their foot between pedals. At 55 miles an hour, a vehicle would cover around 121 feet in this timeframe. That vehicle hasn’t even started slowing down yet.

Once the driver hits the brakes, it may take another one and a half seconds to reach a safe speed. But even this is dependent on things like road conditions. If the roads are slick or if the vehicle is very heavy, then it could take even longer to slow down. This is why three seconds is viewed as the bare minimum that is required to keep people safe.

Unfortunately, many drivers do not follow the three-second rule. If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident, you may need to seek financial compensation for medical bills and other costs. Having legal guidance can help.