How far should you be from the car in front of you?

How far should you be from the car in front of you?

Updated on June 20 2024

By Melvin Magadia, for Automart.PH

METRO MANILA, – In heavy traffic, drivers can easily be tempted to follow too close to the cars in front of them.  

But tailgating carries with it serious consequences. Driving too close to another car can result in rear-end collisions.

According to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Reporting and Analysis System 2020 Annual Report, there were 12,149 road crashes resulting from rear-end collisions, of which 27 were fatal.

You might be in control behind the wheel, but you cannot say that is the case with the driver of the car in front of you. To prevent collisions with the car ahead, you need to practice safe following distance.

What’s the safe following distance?

When it comes to safe following distance, there are certain things you need to keep in mind.

First is your speed. The faster you travel, the more space you will need to make your vehicle stop. The second is the reaction time. The more distance you have from the vehicle in front of you, the more time you can react.

Another important thing to consider is your stopping distance. This refers to the distance needed for your car to come to a full stop during an emergency.

In determining the actual distance, it takes into account your reaction distance and braking distance. The former measures the distance your car is between something happening ahead and your reaction. On the other hand, the braking distance measures how far your vehicle travels after hitting the brakes and it comes to a full stop.

Reaction time can be impacted by various factors, such as your age, driving experience and weather conditions. But in most cases, it can take anywhere from 0.2 seconds to a couple of seconds of reaction time to come to a full stop.

So if your reaction distance is 20 feet and it takes you another 20 feet to come to a complete stop, it means that your stopping distance is 40 feet. If you are running at high speed, you will have a shorter reaction distance.

The 3-second rule

To avoid an unexpected collision, you need to keep in mind the three-second rule.  

With this, there will be a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. How do you know if you are three seconds away from the car ahead?

There is a simple trick to measure the distance. Choose a landmark like a lamp post or street sign. Once the car in front passes it, it should take you three seconds to pass that landmark.

Three seconds gives you enough time to react in case the vehicle you are following hits the brake or collides with another car. In addition, it gives you enough time to see the road ahead and scout for any hazards you or the vehicle in front might face.

When should you increase the following distance?

There are times when you need to adjust your distance beyond the three-second rule.

Here are a few of the situations you need to increase the following distance:

Bad weather conditions

During bad weather, visibility can be low making it difficult for drivers to spot potential risks or see if the vehicle in front is slowing down. On a slippery road, it is harder to stop, so you need more stopping distance.

Entering or exiting a highway

When entering a highway, you need to increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead. Upon exit, you will start to slow down.

On a highway, you need to give yourself enough distance to accelerate and safely merge.

Driving behind motorcycles or bicycles

Compared to cars and other heavy vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles are far lighter. This makes it easier for them to easily fall over.  And because of their weight, they also stop much faster.

Thus, you need to give them enough space so that you can properly stop your car during an emergency.

Learning how to properly follow the car in front of you can go a long way in ensuring your safety and that of the other drivers. Implementing a safe following distance ensures that you will reach your destination without any hassle.