Rear-end crashes are the most common type of accident in the U.S. and yet, they are often preventable. One of the best ways to avoid rear-ending another vehicle is leaving plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Doing so allows you adequate time to slow, stop or take evasive action should a hazard develop, and offers maximum visibility to what’s ahead of you.
A good rule of thumb to establish following distance in dry, sunny driving conditions is to maintain a minimum of six seconds behind. When the vehicle in front of you passes a stationary object (i.e., bridge, tree, utility pole, sign), begin counting – one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, etc. You should reach the same object no sooner than six seconds after the vehicle in front of you…more seconds is even better. If another vehicle cuts into your space, drop back and count again until you have the desired space ahead. And remember that weather and road conditions will make it more difficult to perceive hazards and harder for your brakes to stop your vehicle, meaning that it will take more time and distance to avoid a rear-end collision. So, allow even more space and slow down when conditions are less than ideal.
To help avoid problems with traffic in front of you, remain alert to the “big picture.” Scan as far ahead as possible and be vigilant for brake lights and changing traffic signals. Watch for possible conflict situations and take appropriate steps to avoid or reduce them. If you only pay attention to the vehicle immediately ahead, you’re putting your entire trust in that driver’s responses to hazardous situations that might be developing farther down the road. Control your own vehicle, slow down, add space and be ready to respond to any driving challenges.
Of course, a rear-end accident is a two-way street. In order to avoid being hit in a rear-end accident, you must remain alert to what is happening to your sides and behind you, not just what’s ahead of you. Should a hazard appear suddenly – a pedestrian, an accident or debris in the road – keeping space around your vehicle will give you other options apart from slamming on the brakes, such as turning or changing lanes. Another measure that can help prevent being rear-ended is giving drivers behind you plenty of notice before you turn or change lanes. When approaching a stop sign or red light, slow gradually rather than making a sudden stop. If you notice that a vehicle is following you too closely, add extra space ahead so that you will not need to brake suddenly. Signal and move to another lane as soon as it is safely possible to do so and allow the tailgating vehicle to pass.