We’ve all seen someone in traffic following another car so closely that they’re almost touching bumper-to-bumper. While following too closely—commonly known as tailgating—is the most common reason victims sue a driver for a rear-end crash, not everyone does it intentionally. In fact, people may be taught the wrong method of judging the proper distance between cars as early as their driver education classes.
Two Seconds Is Not Enough Time to Prevent a Rear-End Crash
Most new drivers are taught to leave a reasonable distance between their front bumper and the vehicle in front of them. However, that can be interpreted in different ways by different drivers. Many teenagers taking their first driving courses are told to use the “two-second rule” to judge the distance: the driver chooses a stationary object at the side of the road ahead and counts aloud. If the driver passes the object before he finishes counting to two, he should leave a larger space cushion.
Many researchers have argued that two seconds is simply not enough time to prevent an accident. If the person ahead slams on his brakes, drivers need enough time to:
- Realize there is danger ahead
- Begin corrective action
- Take his foot off of the accelerator pedal and move it to the brake
- Apply the brake
- Wait for the brakes to engage
- Steer the vehicle to a safe stop
While it may seem like all of these actions can happen in the blink of an eye, the truth is that it can take up to a full five seconds for a driver to initiate the actions that avoid a crash—and that is under ideal circumstances. A driver who is distracted, tired, or driving during inclement weather or in a vehicle with worn brakes or tires should leave even more of a following distance.