Many Houston drivers seem unaware of how closely they follow other drivers, especially on highways. Not maintaining a safe following distance diminishes the control you need when operating a car at high speeds. Learn more about the ideal space around your car, recommended following distances, and some tips to help you in all situations.
What Is a Space Cushion?
When you maintain a safe following distance and stay in your own lane, you have created a space cushion around your vehicle. This space gives you the freedom to slow down if the car in front of you slows down. When possible, keeping your sides clear of traffic gives you more room to maneuver in case you need to respond to a sudden change.
Safe Following Distance
Various conditions around you dictate changes in how you drive:
- Good Weather
When driving on a clear day with dry roads and low traffic, the recommended safe distance for following another car is three seconds. Be mindful that conditions can change quickly, as drivers ahead can make sudden decisions that shrink that distance or simply drive while distracted and do not maintain a consistent rate of travel.
- Inclement Weather
If driving during less than ideal weather conditions (e.g., light rain, light fog, wind, etc.), increase your following distance to six seconds. When poor weather strikes, including heavy rains, fog, or snow, triple your following distance to nine seconds. The worse conditions mean you will need more time to react and your vehicle may need more time to slow down.
- Time of Day
When driving at night, double or triple your following distance, especially in low light situations or in places where an animal might appear out of the darkness. In early morning or late afternoon, you may find yourself driving with the sun in your face. You should wear sunglasses and use your sun visor to protect your line of sight and increase your following distance.
Steps You Can Take To Drive Safely
While you may drive safely, you can’t guarantee everyone around you will. Here are some tips for maintaining your own safety in such situations:
- Control What You Can
Other drivers will not always drive safely. How they drive is beyond your control. Never try to correct other drivers while driving. Keep your cool, reduce your distractions, and drive your vehicle correctly.
- Befriend Distance
To stay safe from vehicles in front of you, put distance between you. Remember, a maximum following distance doesn’t exist. Additionally, avoid riding alongside someone, as empty space in neighboring lanes gives you more options. Gauge the necessary distance using your speed. Remember, if you must slam on your brakes to react to something in front of you, you were following too close or going too fast.
- Lane Position
Where you occupy a lane can limit your options. Riding too close to the curb places you in extra danger, while riding the line with oncoming traffic exposes you to other risks. As much as possible, stay in the center of the lane.
On a highway with multiple lanes, lane position takes on a whole new meaning. People like to complicate this, but it really is simple. If you are not passing, stay to the right. If you choose to pass, do so as quickly as possible and move immediately out of that lane back to your right. You do not want to stay to the left, as it may create traffic congestion and increases the risks of an accident when people incorrectly pass you on the right. In Texas, this is the law.
Source: Attorney Brian White
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