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Do drivers know how to keep a safe following distance?


It’s that time of the year when families crisscross the country, heading off to their favourite holiday destination. Now, more than ever, drivers need to take cognizance of some basic rules / tips/ advice/ hints that they should adhere to in order to avoid becoming another crash statistic.

Correct following distance. It’s one of the most basic rules of driving: leave a safe following distance. But, it’s also one of the most commonly broken rules, particularly when traffic density increases on the major highways. This could result in rear-end collisions – for which inadequate following distance accounts for some 80%.

On any journey, on any road, on any given day, in any weather condition, you’re likely to witness many instances of drivers following others too closely.

And, even if you use all kinds of other safe driving techniques, you can never be a truly safe driver if you don’t follow this simple rule.
Leaving a safe following distance means you always leave yourself an escape route – and that you will almost always be able to take evasive action if you need to.

It could be that some drivers are unsure of how to leave a safe following distance and some people simply need a reminder from time to time of how to count out a safe following distance. Here goes:

Follow the three-second rule (5 – 6 in bad weather conditions)

Yes, that’s right, three-seconds. Adding a few more seconds to your following distance can decrease your chances of a collision enormously. So, forget the two-second rule (that went out with the Dodo), it’s the three-second rule that will help to save more lives.

When driving in good conditions, with traffic flowing smoothly, always use the three-second rule to help you keep a safe following distance. If the roads are wet, it could take you twice as long to stop. If roads are covered with ice it could take you up to ten times as long to stop. Therefore, you should always adjust your following distance to suit the weather conditions.

Count it out

So, how do you keep a three-second following distance? Simple: count it out. While driving, pick a fixed object up ahead (a tree, lamppost, and sign, for example). As the rear of the vehicle in front passes that object, begin to count. One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand. If you don’t complete your counting before your own vehicle reaches that same object, you’re too close and you need to increase your following distance.

Maintain a three-second gap

So, you’ve created a safe following distance – that’s the easy part! Maintaining it can be trickier. You’ll probably find that other vehicles continuously pull into the gap, especially in heavy traffic. Don’t get angry, frustrated or stressed out! Simply adjust. Ease off the accelerator, let your following distance increase and count it out once more.

Truth be told you may increase your travelling time but it will only be by a few minutes – better a few minutes than not arriving at all.

Till next time – keep your cool and follow the 3 second rule.

Eugene Herbert
Group Managing Director

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