May 17, 2021

What Is a Safe Driving Distance Between Cars?

Tailgating, the act of following too closely behind another vehicle, is one of the most common causes of car accidents in Wisconsin and across the United States. Even at low speeds, rear-end collisions can result in serious injuries such as whiplash. It is important for drivers to maintain a safe distance between their vehicles and those in front of them.

The car accident attorneys at Studinski Law, LLC are committed to helping injury victims throughout Wisconsin. We have the experience, knowledge, and resources necessary to protect your rights and pursue the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.

What Is a Safe Following Distance in Traffic?

Safe following distances can vary depending on certain conditions, such as weather, the type of vehicle you are driving or following, and the speed at which you are traveling. The point of maintaining a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you is to prevent collisions from occurring.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recommends that under ideal driving conditions, you should allow at least four seconds of following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. More distance should be given at night or during poor weather conditions, such as snow, ice, or rain.

If you are driving a longer vehicle, such as a camper or trailer, a general rule is to add an additional second of distance for every additional three yards of your vehicle. Although the extra length is behind you while driving, the extended length of your vehicle increases the amount of time you need to stop. Even if you are carrying a heavy load in a regular passenger vehicle, you should account for the extra weight and allow yourself more distance to come to a stop.

How Do I Measure the Distance Between Cars When Driving?

One of the most common ways of determining the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you is called the time-lapse method. This approach can work well on any road that has markers or objects to use as a reference point. 

Using the time-lapse method, you should:

  • Locate a sign, mark, bridge, tree, or another object on the side of the road. 
  • When the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes the object, begin to count the seconds (using the counting method of one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.).
  • Note how many seconds have passed by the time the front of your vehicle reaches the same object. This is your following distance. If you reach the object in less than four seconds under ideal driving conditions, decrease your speed to increase your following distance.

If driving conditions are less than ideal, add even more distance between vehicles to give yourself more room for sudden stopping. With some practice, using this method to gauge your distance from the car in front of you should become increasingly easier.

Why Is Tailgating Dangerous?

Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of automobile accidents in the country. The latest data from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that rear-end collisions account for more than 30 percent of all vehicle collisions in the U.S.

Rear-end collisions can be extremely dangerous, and sometimes fatal. Most often, these types of crashes result in neck and back injuries, such as:

  • Whiplash: One of the most common injuries sustained in rear-end accidents is whiplash. It occurs when the head makes a rapid back-and-forth motion during a crash. Symptoms include limited neck mobility, headaches, fatigue, and soreness in the shoulders, upper back, and arms.
  • Back strains and sprains: When your vehicle is struck from behind, muscles and tendons in your back can be harmed. In back strains, tendons or muscles are injured. In back sprains, ligaments are stretched or torn.
  • Spinal fractures: Spinal fractures can pinch, tear, or compress the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can be incredibly dangerous, potentially causing paralysis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia.

What To Do If You’re Being Tailgated

If you notice a vehicle following too closely behind you, consider taking the following steps:

  • Continue to drive safely: Do not speed up. Maintain a safe speed and the distance between you and the car in front of you.
  • Move over to another lane if possible: If another lane is available, move to it. Use your turn signal to indicate your intentions to the other driver.
  • Pull off the road: If you are on a two-lane road without an opportunity to change lanes, wait until it is safe to pull off the road to let the other vehicle pass. 
  • Stay calm: It can be frustrating to have someone tailgate you, but do your best to keep your composure. The driver may not realize he or she is following too closely, or the driver may be trying to intimidate you. Either way, don’t let it get to you and don’t escalate the situation. Do not pump your brakes to try to scare them off and refrain from making inappropriate gestures.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Wisconsin Today

Your first step toward the justice and compensation you may deserve for your car accident begins with a free, no-obligation consultation. Our seasoned car accident lawyer will listen to your side of the story and explain your rights and legal options.

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If you have been injured in a car wreck, call Studinski Law, LLC today at (715) 343-2850 for a free case review. Our car accident attorneys serve clients throughout Wisconsin, including Plover and Marshfield.

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