Timing is everything and when you are on the highway, every second counts. Rear-end collisions between vehicles are reported to be one of the most common accidents on the road. This normally happens when drivers do not get enough time to perceive slowing or stopped traffic. The safest way to avoid this is to maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you.
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Understanding the Concept of “Stopping Distance”
Before we cut to the chase, let us understand the concept of “stopping distance”. It is referred to as how far it takes you to fully stop the car in an emergency situation. This is usually determined by factors like reaction distance and braking distance. The former is the time between something happening on the road and your reaction to it while the latter is how far your car travels after you hit the brakes and it completely stops.
The faster you are traveling, the longer it will take you to stop the car. The total stopping distance is the combination of your reaction distance and your braking distance.
The 3-Second Rule
The easiest way to calculate a safe following distance while on the road is to use the 3-second rule. This rule states that you should stay three seconds behind the car in front of you regardless of the speed. It also considers the fact that the car ahead will need some distance to stop completely giving you an opportunity to recognize a danger and respond in a timely fashion.
Driving instructors teach this rule to the new drivers because it helps to avoid road accidents especially rear-end collisions.
How to Calculate the 3-Second Distance
It is extremely easy to calculate the 3-second gap between you and the car ahead. Take a point of reference up ahead while you’re driving. When the car in front of you passes that reference point, you need to calculate the three seconds and make sure you don’t pass that point of reference before the time is up.
If you feel that you pass the reference point in under three seconds, it means you need to slow down a little because you are too close. However, if it takes you more than three seconds, it is fine.
Situations When the 3-Second Rule Doesn’t Apply
The 3-second rule is applicable only to favorable and daylight driving conditions. There are situations when the 3-second rule does not apply and leaving only three seconds of distance between your car and the car ahead could still be dangerous.
If you are driving in a heavy traffic, driving in moderate rain or at night, it is advisable to double the 3-second rule to six seconds as a precautionary measure.
If the weather conditions are extreme and you are facing heavy rain or heavy fog, tripling it to nine seconds is the way to go because safety comes first.
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These tips are fairly obvious because safe driving always involves adapting to the surroundings but with six or nine seconds, you are making sure that you have plenty of time to react if something unexpected happens.
Everyone on the road may have a valid driving license but not everybody has the same skill level. Tailgating is an aggressive practice which is often mistaken for road rage. Nobody wants to be involved in an accident and best way to avoid such situation is to apply defensive driving practices like the 3-second rule.