Safe following distance

Maintaining a safe following distance, the space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, is essential for road safety. It is your primary defense against rear-end collisions and fender benders in traffic. By keeping a proper following distance, you have more time to react to sudden stops and unexpected situations on the road.

What is the three-second rule?

The three-second rule is a general guideline for following distance. The rule helps you assess a safe following distance for different speeds. When you are driving 30 mph (50 km/h), you should leave at least three seconds of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. For every 10 mph (16 km/h) increase in speed, you should add one second of space.

You can count your following distance easily:

  1. Choose a landmark on the roadside, such as a streetlight or a traffic sign.
  2. Wait until the vehicle in front of you passes the landmark.
  3. Start counting seconds.
  4. Stop counting when your vehicle passes the same landmark.
  5. The seconds you counted are your following distance.

It is important to choose a proper following distance based on your speed. Tire blowouts happen often at highway speeds, as worn tires can overheat. Ensure you have enough time to react by keeping a safe following distance.

Close-up of the bottom half of a silver car driving on a wet road, greenery in the background

When to maintain greater following distance?

You should adapt your following distance to the prevailing driving conditions. Leave more space between your vehicle and the one in front of you especially when the conditions are poor or you are behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle.

  • Bad weather conditions. Rain and wet roads reduce visibility and increase the risk of hydroplaning. Give yourself more time to react to possible emergency situations.
  • Snowy and icy roads. Your stopping distance is longer when driving on snow and ice-covered roads. You should accommodate your following distance accordingly. Read more in-depth about tips for safe winter driving here.
  • Heavy traffic. When traffic is intense, you should be prepared for sudden stops. It is a good idea to maintain a greater following distance.
  • Driving a heavy vehicle. Your braking distance is significantly longer when you are driving a heavy vehicle. For instance, keep a greater following distance if you are carrying heavy loads or pulling a trailer.

Driving too close to large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, blocks your vision. Poor visibility makes it difficult to read traffic and pass larger vehicles safely. By keeping a proper following distance, driving is smoother and safer.

Also, remember to check your tires regularly, as good tires are an important part of road safety. When you need new tires, contact your local Nokian Tyres dealer and buy high-quality tires that are designed for safe driving.


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