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Remember the Three Second Rule

Remember the Three Second Rule

Tailgating is dangerous and annoying, don’t do it!

Most of us know what tailgating is, but for those who don’t, it’s the detestable practice of one vehicle following another far too closely whilst driving on the road.

Sometimes it’s quite horrifying to watch a vehicle tailgating dangerously close to another, obviously trying to pressure the driver in front to move faster or move out of the way.

It’s most likely that you’ve been a victim of tailgating and that you’ve been guilty of tailgating another vehicle at some point in your motoring life.

Tailgating is not only extremely dangerous, it’s illegal, and there’s a simple way of avoiding becoming a perpetrator.

Have you heard of the 3 Second Rule?

The 3 Second Rule is a method of measuring your distance from the car in front of you, to determine if you’re travelling at a safe interval. It may sound a little strange to measure distance in units of time rather than kilometers, but measuring in time allows you to apply the method to any speed.

Three seconds on the highway is a much different physical distance than 3 seconds in built up traffic.

How does it work?

It’s easy and anyone can do it. Simply pick out a landmark such as a tree or sign and wait for the car directly in front of you to pass it.

Once the car passes it, start counting how long it takes you to pass that same landmark.

If the difference is at least 3 seconds, you’re travelling at a safe distance. Any closer than that is too close for comfort.

When you use this method for the first time, it can seem like 3 seconds allows more than enough distance.

However, in a braking emergency, it generally takes the driver 1.5 seconds to react and another 1.5 seconds for the car to come to a stop.

That’s assuming you’re paying close attention to the road and your brakes are in good enough condition to stop the car safely and promptly.

Keep in mind that 3 seconds is a safe distance for regular cars.

However, the larger your car, the more distance you should keep from the vehicle in front of you.

If you drive a Ute or SUV, your vehicle is heavier and therefore encounters more momentum than a smaller car travelling at the same speed.

Due to the extra weight, your vehicle will require additional force and greater stopping distance.

No matter how good the brakes are on your Ute or SUV, physics still favour smaller, lighter cars in terms of stopping distance. 4 seconds is a safe distance for Utes and SUVs.

If you drive a large commercial truck, you carry a lot more momentum and need to allow a much greater distance to stop. 6 seconds is the general rule for 18-wheelers.

However, if you’re a professional truck driver, you’ve probably received detailed training on how to stop your truck safely.

Another thing to keep in mind is speed; the faster you’re moving, the longer the distance required to come to a complete stop.

Braking distance is one of the main reasons why excessive speeding is dangerous.

Imagine you’re on the highway doing 30 km/h over the speed limit.

Even if you’re following the 3 second rule, that buffer of safety is inadequate to cover the extra speed, as it will undoubtedly take you longer to stop, especially if the car in front of you is going the speed limit and can stop that much faster than you.

The safest speed is still the speed at which traffic is moving, but it’s something to keep in mind when considering braking distance.

Nobody likes being tailgated. Now you have a method to put into practice and avoid being that aggressive driver that you wouldn’t want to encounter on the road.

If you’re in the car with a mate and notice they’re driving a little too close to the car in front of you, teach them the 3 second rule.

They might get slightly annoyed at being lectured on how to drive, but it could save their life or the lives of other motorists!

Thanks to AutoGuru for this handy info on tailgating.

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About Kate Richards 1666 Articles
Kate has always had an interest in writing and cars and now as a key member of the Behind the Wheel website team she gets to spend her days consumed by both. Aside from being a contributor and an editor at Behind the Wheel, Kate enjoys driving her Lancer EVO and walking her beloved dog, Max!

1 Comment on Remember the Three Second Rule

  1. I agree, i think the 3 second rule should definitely apply. Although a lot of the time that people tailgate is when another car cuts them off and they get up close to prove a point. Dangerous still i know. I’d also like to see fines for people who don’t move for ages at a turn arrow when it goes green. Especially when it makes other vehicles miss out on the cycle!

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