What is a Safe Driving Distance?

One of the most common types of car accidents is a rear-end collision. There are various reasons that these crashes occur, but one of the main ones is drivers following other vehicles too closely. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that nearly one-third of all collisions in the United States are rear-end collisions, so it makes sense that we would want to know what a safe driving distance really is.

Today, we want to discuss this important topic as well as some general safe driving tips. Regardless of how often you drive or what type of road you drive on, keeping a safe distance is important.

How to keep a safe following distance

Keeping a safe distance is one of the first lessons we learn in driver’s education. You may have heard of the 2-second rule. Sometimes, it is called the 3-second rule. Whichever one you subscribe to (more time is always better), this is a good one to remember.

The goal is to stay at least 2 seconds (or 3 seconds) behind the vehicle directly in front of you. Properly calculating this is fairly easy. First, you need to pick out a fixed object on the side of the road that you can easily see. This can be a pole, tree, sign, or anything else. Once the rear bumper of the car in front of you passed that fixed point, start your count.




If the front bumper of your vehicle crosses that fixed object before you get to two or three, you are following them too closely, and it is time to slow down. Remember, you can certainly be over the three seconds to be even safer. The most important thing is that you have time to react if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly or gets into a crash.

This rule is fluid and not set in stone

These rules depend on the weather and other conditions. If it is lightly raining, foggy, or nighttime, you should turn your 3-second rule into a 4-plus-second rule. In many situations, this may seem like a huge gap between you and the vehicle in front of you, but that distance will keep you safe.

If it is icy, snowing, or heavily raining, you should follow at a minimum of 6 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. In these conditions, safety is the most important thing, and you will be thankful you follow this rule if something happens in front of you.

What about other types of vehicles?

If you are behind a large commercial truck, you need to understand that they have blind spots. If you cannot see the truck driver’s reflection in the mirror, the driver cannot see you. You should never follow farm equipment or snowplows too closely. You never know when they are going to turn off or make a stop.

Under no circumstances should you ride closely behind an emergency vehicle that has its lights flashing. Not only is this illegal, but it can also distract the first responders from doing their jobs. When you see an emergency vehicle on the roadway, just treat them as if they are heading to take care of a friend or family member – back off and let them do their job.