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How to Keep a Safe Driving Distance

Following vehicles too closely is the number one cause of rear end crashes in West Virginia. A driver can avoid most, if not all, rear end crashes by keeping a safe separation distance between him and the vehicle ahead. How long that distance needs to be varies depending on traffic, weather, road and vehicle conditions.

Safe Driving Distance and West Virginia law

Keeping a safe distance is required by West Virginia law, and as a personal injury lawyer, one of the most common findings I see on West Virginia crash reports is that a driver was following the vehicle ahead too closely. Therefore, keeping a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front not only helps keep you, your passengers and others safe, keeping a safe distance also protects you legally and financially.

What is following too closely?

Following too closely is defined by the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency as, “situations in which one vehicle is following another vehicle so closely that even if the following driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead he/she could not avoid a collision in the circumstance when the driver in front brakes suddenly.”

In addition to providing enough stopping time, proper following distance allows for more time to make good, well-planned decisions and affords other drivers the opportunity to scan the sides, look far enough ahead, and view the vehicle immediately in front.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 5 percent of truck crashes occurred when the Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver was following the lead vehicle too closely.

How to measure a safe following distance

According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation and a number of safety resources, including State Farm Insurance, one way to maintain a safe driving distance is by following what’s called the two or three second rule.

When traveling on a highway, the WV DOT says the minimum distance to keep between you and the vehicle in front of you is 2 seconds, but that is the bare minimum. Keep in mind two seconds is the distance needed on clear sunny days. At night or during inclement weather you need to increase your safety margin to four to eight seconds. You should maintain these cushions as best as possible including the time you find yourself riding in traffic.

To figure your distance correctly pick a point on the road, like a sign or a seam in the pavement, watch the vehicle ahead of you pass it and count the seconds it takes you to reach that point. The number of seconds you count is your following distance.

Following distances should be increased when road conditions are affected by the weather. Even brief rain showers may contribute to slippery road conditions. Bridges and overpasses frequently become slick in cold weather before other road surfaces. You should also increase following distance when visibility is poor and when you are in traffic or have other reason to believe the driver in front of you may need to make a sudden stop.

Get a Free Consultation with an Experienced Injury Lawyer

We hope this article keeps you and your family safe and you never need our services. However, if you or a loved was injured or killed as a result of negligence, including a negligent driver, negligent doctor, negligent property owner, or negligent employer, we invite you to call one of our experienced injury lawyers for a free consultation. There’s also never a fee unless and until we recover money for you. Call West Law Firm toll free at 1-877-943-9378.

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