Following distance is the distance required between your vehicle and the vehicle in front while driving. The speed at which you drive relates to the distance required for you to safely stop, so as you increase speed, you must also increase the following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front.
Monitoring and judging your following distance is a constant of road safety. If your following distance is too short, an accident is more likely in an emergency braking situation as you will not have enough time to react and brake safely before colliding with the vehicle in front.
One rule of thumb is to allow at least two seconds between you and the vehicle in front. You can monitor this while driving by using a fixed point on or at the side of the road, such as a traffic island or lamp post. When the vehicle in front of you passes the fixed point, ensure at least two seconds pass before you reach that same fixed point.
If you are tired or you have potential distractions in the vehicle such as children or pets, you should increase your following distance to allow for potentially increased reaction time. Getting your following distance right will help ensure you arrive safely at your destination.
Stopping Distance equals Reaction Distance plus Braking Distance
Assuming you are maintaining the correct following distance, how long will it actually take you to come to a safe stop? The chart below provides a guide for overall stopping distance at different speeds.
The chart should be considered as a guide only, as the distance you will travel when reacting to a situation and then braking to a complete stop can also be affected by several factors:
- How alert and reactive you are
- The condition of your vehicle’s tyres and how effectively they remain in traction with the road surface
- The condition of your vehicle’s brakes and whether your vehicle is fitted with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
- The condition of your vehicle’s shock absorbers