Fleet drivers need to manage the "space cushion" around their vehicle to avoid possible collisions.  -  Screenshot via Smith System.

Fleet drivers need to manage the "space cushion" around their vehicle to avoid possible collisions.

Screenshot via Smith System.

Tailgating isn’t just an annoyance; it’s a major danger on the roadways. In fact, some 23% of all motor vehicle accidents are rear-end collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Worse still, these types of collisions result in 950,000 injuries and 2,000 fatalities every year.

While managing driving space may seem like a simple concept, it can help your drivers avoid tailgating collisions and other hazards.

Talk to your drivers about the importance of always keeping the appropriate distance between their vehicle and those around them. It's what Smith System refers to as a "space cushion." Whether moving, parking or stopping, drivers should understand that an appropriate space cushion will keep them, and other drivers, safer while on the road.

Drivers should use the following three elements for creating and managing their space cushion, according to Tony Douglas, Smith System's CEO.

Speed Control

Drivers should make it a practice to look far up ahead at the road in front of them. By seeing traffic lights in advance, a motorist is in a better position to coast instead of abruptly stopping and starting. This helps maintain space around the vehicle.

When stopping behind a crosswalk or another vehicle, drivers should always leave 15 feet of space or at least one car length.

Lane Positioning

Always place your vehicle in what is referred to as the lane of least resistance. Essentially, this is the lane that offers the driver the best visibility with the fewest hazards.

However, drivers will have to change lanes from time to time. That's why it is imperative to keep ample distance — a comfortable space cushion — at all times. For example, if you have a tailgater behind you, you’ll want to have plenty of space to move out of the way.

When considering lane positioning, also bear in mind that's it’s never wise to drive in clusters or packs. When vehicles get lumped together too closely it limits your options to react in the event of roadway debris or unexpected moves by other drivers. Always keep an opening on either side of your vehicle, which serves as your escape route if needed.

The Essence of Communication

Communicating with other drivers is essential to your safety on the road. For example, when slowing or turning, brake early to warn other motorists behind you.

Managing space on all sides of your vehicle is crucial for other drivers. The more space around your vehicle, the more time everyone has to spot hazards ahead, react appropriately and avert accidents.

Finally, drivers should always look for extra space in parking areas. They should get in the habit of seeking out parking spots that allow them to pull through so there is no need for backing out later. Backing collisions are among the most common types of accidents, with at least 500,000 backing collisions of some type every year in the U.S.

About the author
Marianne Matthews

Marianne Matthews


Marianne Matthews contributes safety news and articles for the Fleet Safety newsletter. She is an experienced trade editor.

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