BE ALERT: Drivers don't seem to be aware of the dangers when tailgating. Image: Shutterstock.
Most rear-end collisions are caused when drivers leave insufficient space to the vehicle ahead - called (incorrectly, as it happens) tailgating.
It's often a form of aggressive driving.
In South Africa, with its high prevalence of road-rage, tailgating can lead to retaliation by other drivers and initiate instances of road-rage.
Adequate following distances allow the driver of a following vehicle time to react to an emergency ahead and either stop or change lane that could mean the difference between life and death.
Total stopping distance involves the following:
• Human perception time: The time required for a driver to recognise a potential hazard. This time is assumed to be approximately 0.75sec in normal situations.
• Human reaction time: Hazard perceived, the driver must respond by braking. Average reaction time is about 0.75sec.
• Vehicle reaction time: This is the time it takes for the vehicle to react once the brakes have been applied by the driver. Vehicle reaction time is very quick, usually assumed to be about 0.05sec.
• Vehicle braking capability: This refers to the vehicle’s ability to come to a stop after the brakes have been applied.
International studies have indicated that when a driver follows another vehicle at 100km/h and the vehicle in front suddenly applies brakes the following driver will need about 1.5sec to react. If there is not enough space between the vehicles... yes, you will crash.
Stay alert at all times as abrupt stopping could be caused by a variety of unforeseen events such as:
• Debris on the road
• Pedestrians or stray animals
• Other hazards
• Distracted driver - perhaps using a cellphone.
The 2-3sec Rule
Most international road safety campaigns refer to the “2" or "3"-Second Rule” as a guideline for safe following distances.
Arrive Alive said: "We agree with the National Safety Council that a three-second rule - with increases of one second per factor of driving difficulty - is more appropriate
The 2-3 Second Rule is applied as follows:
• Watch for the vehicle ahead of you to pass a landmark - road sign, tree, power pole.
• As it does, start counting "one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three".
• If you pass the sign etc before you finish saying all these words you are following too closely. Slow down, pick another landmark, repat... to make sure you have increased your following distance.
• This rule will ensure that you keep the correct following distance, no matter how fast you are going.
Adusting Following Distance:
The 2-3 Second Rule is only the advised measure when driving conditions are ideal. This should be seen as a bare minimum, the Automobile Association says; make it five or six when:
• In adverse weather conditions
• Driving on a wet road
• Driving at night
• Following vehicles with different characteristics (motorcycles, truck)
• When towing
Always drive defensively and focus on your safety and the safety of those around you. Don't allow yourself to be tailgated - change lanes or adjust your speed to encourage the offender to overtake.
If someone cuts into your space take a deep breath, lift off the accelerator a little and regain space - what counts is your safety! And we promise, you won't get there any later...