You do not hit the brakes instantly when you see something happen ahead of you on the road. It takes time — as much as two seconds for some people. Even if it only takes you a tenth of that, you do not begin stopping immediately, and your car certainly cannot stop on a dime even once you do push the brakes.
This is why the following distance that you keep is important. It is the distance you trail behind another car. Many people adhere to the three-second rule, giving themselves three seconds between vehicles so that they have time to react if needed.
To figure out how far you are from the next car, just wait until it goes by a fixed object, like a bridge or a road sign. Then start counting in your head, stopping only when your vehicle goes by the same object. That tells you the number of seconds you would have if that car stopped without warning.
You also have to consider the conditions. If the road is wet, for instance, it may take longer for your car to stop. If it is foggy out, you may not see the events ahead of you as clearly, increasing how long it takes you to react. All of these factors can change how long that safe stopping distance is, so do not assume that three seconds always works.
Now, if you watch the cars behind you, you can tell very quickly that many people break this rule every time they drive. If one of them gets too close and then rear-ends your car, you may be able to seek financial compensation for your injuries and losses. There’s no reason not to hold a negligent driver accountable for their mistakes or reckless behavior on the road.
To learn more, visit our Motor Vehicle Accident page.
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