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Safe Driving Distance Fact Sheet: What is a Safe Following Distance?

By Safelite // Feb 19, 2015

Do you tailgate (as in, follow too closely)? You may have driven too close to the vehicle in front of you at some point in time, especially if you drive an SUV or sports car. Studies have shown that family and economy cars tailgate less than sports cars and SUVs by a ratio of two to one.

In fact, the same study compared the amount of tailgating in various U.S. states and found that these five states exhibited the worst tailgating, finding it difficult to maintain a safe following distance:

  1. Colorado (25%)
  2. Georgia (20%)
  3. Pennsylvania (20%)
  4. Michigan (19%)
  5. Texas (19%)

The sad truth is that tailgating is dangerous and causes thousands of vehicle accidents every year, as well as numerous fatalities. By learning the safe following distances for various vehicles like snow plows, semi-trucks, emergency vehicles and the average car, you can better avoid tailgating and a potentially life-altering accident.

Take a look at the graphic below to learn proper following distances for vehicles traveling at 55 mph so you can drive safe. Share to spread the word!

Safe Driving Distance Infobyte

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Safe Driving Distance at 55 MPH in Good Conditions

The rule of thumb is to maintain at least a three-second following distance, giving you time to react and avoid potentially dangerous situations. You can calculate this by using a fixed object, such as a pole or an overpass to determine how far in front of you the car is. When you’re driving in poor weather, it’s better to give yourself more space so you don’t wind up slamming on the brakes on a slick road. Here are some examples of safe driving distances:

  • Farm Tractors: 50 feet (about four car lengths) – Farm equipment typically has max speeds of 25 mph.
  • Snow Plow: 70 feet (about five car lengths) – Snowplows typically travel slower than 55 mph.
  • Car: 243 feet (about 16 car lengths) – This gives you the necessary space to stop safely.
  • Semi-Truck: 300 feet (about 20 car lengths) – Semis carry heavy loads, so more than slamming on the brakes, something can fall off or out of the truck, and you need time to react and avoid the debris.
  • Emergency Vehicle – 500 feet (about 33 car lengths) – When lights are flashing, emergency vehicles are exceeding the speed limit, and you want to make sure you’re still obeying the law.

Rear end collisions are the most common form of accidents, where one driver (or both) is not paying attention. Most occur when drivers do not have enough time to react safety to slowed or stopped traffic. Follow the three-second rule, and think about the car in front of you. You should use more space for a semi-truck than a car, and more space for a car than a plow. Avoid distractions on the road, and increase your following distance when need be. It’s always better to be safe when behind the wheel.

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