Maintaining a safe driving space around the front, side, and rear of your vehicle so it will be less vulnerable to collisions is largely something that drivers can control.
Consider, for example, following distance. Drivers can be in command of proper following distance. Yet, even the most seasoned professional drivers can use a reminder about best practices.
While many of us have been taught to focus on space — keeping several car lengths between one's vehicle and the car ahead — a better formula concerns time.
For drivers, it takes 1.5 seconds to notice a potential risk in front of their vehicle and another 1.5 seconds to react, hit the brakes and slow down.
That's why the "three-second rule" was born. The idea is to make sure that there is always at least three seconds of time between your vehicle and the vehicle just ahead.
The way to do so is easy. Drivers should wait for the vehicle ahead to pass a set object such as a tree, lamppost, or large rock. Once that vehicle passes it, start counting. If your vehicle reaches the object before you get to three, your following distance is too close and you need to adjust it by dropping back a bit.
What's more, there are times you need to add more seconds to the formula. For example, in bad weather add one second; if driving an SUV, add one second; and large commercial vehicles should add three seconds.
In addition, some experts recommend that following distance should be two times bigger in the winter versus the summer.
Always bear in mind that the faster you drive, the more time and space it takes to stop or maneuver your vehicle, notes AAA.
AAA also points out that in addition to speed, there are three other factors that can impact on your safe driving space. These include:
- Visibility: If you can't see at least 12 seconds ahead, you need more following space.
- Road conditions: It's always smart to leave more following space when driving around tight curves, over hills, or when obstacles are in the road.
- Traffic: Bear in mind that other motorists may make erratic moves in traffic jams, so a longer following distance is wise.
To learn more about how to maintain the proper following distance, watch a video from The Travelers.