by Pam Zubeck
These crashes are many times a combination of following too closely, speeding and driver inattention/distraction. According to a survey administered by Dr. Leon James, PhD from the University of Hawaii, those that drive family and economy cars tailgate less than those who drive sports cars, pick-up trucks and SUVs by a ratio of 2 to 1.
The self-reported survey revealed the five worst states for tailgating: Colorado (25%), Georgia (20%), Pennsylvania (20%), Michigan (19%), Texas (19%). The lowest tailgating states are: Illinois (8%), New York (10%), Florida (14%), Ohio (15%), California (18%).
Officer Richard Hunt, with the Colorado Springs Police Department, sees rear end collisions and near misses due to following too closely on a daily basis. “Driving is something that people tend to become complacent about, and they forget to pay attention. I see many rear-end crashes where the person who caused the crash had no idea that traffic was about to stop in front of them because they were distracted”. He followed by saying that ““Following Too Closely” is a chargeable offence and the charge is for Careless Driving, which has a 4 point penalty, and a $150 fine, plus a $15 surcharge. If there are injuries, it can be more complicated”.
• To determine the right following distance, first select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand." If you reach the object before completing the count, you're following too closely. Making sure there are three seconds between you and the car ahead gives you time and distance to respond to problems in the lane ahead of you.
• Good Weather: During daylight with good, dry roads and low traffic volume, you can ensure you're a safe distance from the car ahead of you by following the "three-second rule." The distance changes at different speeds.
• Inclement Weather, Heavy Traffic, or Night-Time Driving: In heavy traffic, at night, or when weather conditions are not ideal (light rain, light fog, light snow), double the three second rule to six seconds, for added safety.
• Poor Weather: If the weather conditions are very poor (heavy rain, heavy fog, or heavy snow) start by tripling the three second rule to nine seconds to determine a safe following distance.
• Following a vehicle too closely is called 'tailgating'. Tailgating is an aggressive driving behavior that is easily mistaken for road rage. Use the three-second rule to avoid tailgating. Most rear end collisions are caused by the vehicle in back following too closely. If someone is tailgating you, move to another lane or turn off the road as soon as possible and allow the tailgating vehicle to pass.
• Create a Safety Zone: When stopped, make sure you can see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you. This gives you a safe zone in case a car rear ends you.