Most drivers have experienced the apprehension that goes along with having someone ride too close to their bumper. Knowing that there’s no possible way that the other driver could avoid slamming into you if you’re forced to stop can set your teeth on edge and cause you to grip the steering wheel a little tighter. If you’re lucky, the other driver will find a clear spot on the road and go around you. If you aren’t, you’re in for a hair-raising ride until you finally reach your destination.
You have every reason to be concerned, too. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that rear-end collisions caused by “tailgating” account for 23 percent of all motor vehicle crashes, killing approximately 2,000 people each year and injuring another 950,000.
Research indicates that drivers largely fail to realize all the different factors that affect how quickly a vehicle stops. For example, many drivers think that stopping in time to avoid hitting the car in front of them is about quick reflexes and reaction times.
How fast you actually stop, however, is only partially related to those two things. Other factors include road conditions, the quality of a vehicle’s brakes and the size and weight of the vehicle trying to stop. An SUV, for example, takes significantly more time than a small car to stop, and when loaded down with heavy cargo, it takes even longer.
Most learn during driver’s education classes that they should follow the “two second rule” and keep at least two seconds’ worth of space between the front of their vehicle and the rear of the one ahead. However, updated rules suggest that the distance should be increased to four seconds in wet weather and 10 seconds when it’s icy.
Unfortunately, while you can do a lot to prevent tailgating accidents by obeying these rules and keeping a clear distance, you can’t control the drivers behind you. If you end up injured in a car accident, consider contacting an attorney for advice.
Source: Texas.gov, “Driving and Tailgating Factsheet,” accessed Jan. 20, 2017