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What is the appropriate following distance required?

December 6, 2007

What is the appropriate following distance required? Are motorists aware of what a safe following distance is? A member of the public made the following recommendation to the Arrive Alive Road Safety Website:

“When passing along helpful information such as following distances, it would be very useful to specify what following distance should be kept. Telling people to “keep a safe following distance” is useless if they don’t understand what is required.”

Even though there is no exact distance to be offered as advice, most international road safety campaigns refer to the “2 Second Rule” as a guideline for safe following distances. A point on the road is noted, two seconds are counted, and if that point is still visible then there’s probably enough following distance.

The 2 Second Rule is applied as follows:

• Watch the vehicle in front of you pass a landmark – such as a sign, tree, or power pole – at the side of the road.
• As it passes the landmark, start counting “one thousand and one, one thousand and two”.
• If you pass the landmark before you finish saying all eight words, you are following too closely. Slow down, pick another landmark and repeat the words, to make sure you have increased your following distance.
• This rule will ensure that you keep the correct following distance, no matter what speed you are traveling at.

Adjusting Following Distance

The 2 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 4 Seconds in the following situations:

• In adverse weather conditions
• Driving on slippery roads
• Driving at night
• When following vehicles with different characteristics, i.e. motorcycles & trucks
• When towing a trailer or other object

The Arrive Alive Road Safety Website would like to advise all road users to apply common sense and to adapt their driving to the driving conditions. Failure to apply a sufficient following distance is irresponsible and might add to the frustration of other road users!

Also view:

Tailgating and insufficient following distances

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2007 7:55 pm

    I really appreciate your blog…I have been a Defensive Driver Trainer for over 10 years and have learned through much trial and error that the 2 second minimum following distance is not long enough and in recent years has been updated to reflect a newer 4 second minimum following distance with adding an additional second for each of the following: speed greater than 40 mph(add 1 second per 10mph), rain, sleet, snow, fog, heavy traffic, etc.

  2. January 4, 2010 9:21 pm

    The application of and keeping a safe following distance is the responsibility of each road user, this is problematic in heavy traffic and a must when the driving environment is not at its best. The size , weight and length of the vehicle must be taken into account when estimating the required stopping distance, and one must be prepared to adjust when other traffic moves into your safe space, operators of A&B trains must be aware that any rapid change in direction of travel with a brake application may result in a jackknife condition and a control problem, vehicles with a high centre of gravity may over turn, a safe following policy will go along way to avoidance of this condition.

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