When another driver makes a mistake, you need time to react. Give yourself this time by keeping a space cushion on all sides of your vehicle. This space cushion will give you room to brake or maneuver if you need it.
Keep A Cushion Ahead
Many drivers don’t see as well as they should because they follow too closely (tailgate), and the vehicle ahead blocks their view of the road.
Good drivers keep a safe following distance to see better. The more space you allow between your car and the car ahead, the more time you will have to see a hazard or accident down the road. You will have more time to stop, or to avoid the hazard.
Most rear end accidents are caused by tailgating. To avoid this, use the three-second rule. When the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain point, such as a sign, count one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three. This takes about three seconds. If you pass the same point before you finish counting, you are following too closely.
Sometimes you will need more than a three-second cushion. Give yourself a four-second or more cushion when:
• Crowded by a tailgater. Allow extra room between your car and the car ahead. Then, if you need to slow down you can do so gradually. You will be able to avoid braking suddenlyand being hit from behind by the tailgater!
• Driving on slippery roads. If the car ahead should slow or stop, you will need more distance to stop your car.
• Following motorcycles. If the motorcycle falls, you’ll have to avoid hitting the rider. Motorcycles fall more often on wet or icy roads, on metal surfaces (i.e., bridge gratings, railroad tracks, etc.), and on gravel.
•The driver behind you wants to pass. Slow down to allow room in front of your car so the driver will have space to move into.
• Pulling a trailer or carrying a heavy load. The extra weight makes it harder to stop.
• Following large vehicles that block your view ahead. You need the extra room to see around the vehicle and to the sides.
• You see a bus, school bus, or a placarded vehicle. These vehicles must stop at railroad crossings. Expect the stops; slow down early to allow plenty of room.
• When merging on a freeway.
If you follow too closely and another driver cuts in front of you, the normal reaction is to slam on your brakes and swerve out of the way. Swerving out of the way most often results in cutting someone else off or possibly driving off the roadway. It might also result in the car behind you crashing into you or other cars around you.
If another driver cuts in front of you, just take your foot off the gas. This will give you space between your car and the other driver without swerving into another lane.
Keep A Cushion To The Side
Keep a space cushion on each side of your car.
• Don’t drive in another driver’s blind spot. The other driver may not see your car and could change lanes and hit you.
• Avoid driving alongside other cars on multilane streets. Someone may crowd your lane or try to change lanes and pull into you. Move ahead of the other car or drop back.
• Keep as much space as you can between yourself and oncoming traffic. On multilane streets, stay out of the lane next to the center line, if you can. That way you will have more room to avoid an oncoming car that suddenly swerves toward you.
• If possible, make room for vehicles entering freeways even though you have the right-of-way.
• At freeway exits, don’t drive alongside other cars. A driver on the freeway may pull off suddenly or a driver leaving the freeway may swerve back on.
• Keep a space between yourself and parked cars. Someone may step out from between them. A car door may open. A car may pull out suddenly.
• Be careful when riding near bicycles. A bicycle rider could be seriously hurt in an accident. Always leave plenty of room between your car and any bicycle. Watch carefully for bicycles before turning.
Keep A Cushion Behind
Watch for tailgaters! If one is following you, be careful! Brake slowly before stopping. Tap your brake lightly a few times to warn the tailgater you are slowing down.
Lose the tailgater as soon as you can by changing lanes. If you can’t change lanes, slow down enough to encourage the tailgater to go around you. If this does not work, pull off the road when it is safe and let the tailgater pass.
Taking Dangers One At A Time
Suppose there is an oncoming car to your left and a child on a bike to your right. Instead of driving between the car and the child, take one danger at a time. First, slow down and let the car pass. Then, move to the left to allow plenty of room before you pass the child.
Splitting The Difference
Sometimes there will be dangers on both sides of the road at the same time. For example, there will be parked cars to the right and oncoming cars to the left. In this case, the best thing to do is split the difference. Steer a middle course between the oncoming cars and the parked cars.
If one danger is greater than the other, give the most room to the worst danger. Suppose there are oncoming cars to the left of you and a child on a bike to the right. The child is most likely to make a sudden move. Therefore, give him or her the most room by moving closer to the oncoming cars.
Allow A Cushion For Problem Drivers
There are certain people you should give a lot of room to. Here are some of them.
- Drivers who cannot see you such as:
- drivers at intersections or driveways, whose view is blocked by buildings, trees, or other cars.
- drivers backing out of driveways or parking spaces; drivers whose windows are covered with snow or ice; people with umbrellas in front of their faces or hats pulled down over their eyes.
- People who may be distracted such as:
- delivery persons.
- construction workers.
- children, who often run into the street without looking.
- drivers talking on cellular telephones.
- drivers talking to their passengers, taking care of children, or looking at maps while driving.
- People who may be confused such as:
- tourists, often at complicated intersections.
- drivers who slow down for what seems to be no apparent reason.
- drivers looking for a house number.
- Drivers who need help such as:
- a driver who passes you as you approach a curve or an oncoming car.
- A driver who is about to be forced into your lane by a vehicle, a pedestrian, a bicyclist, an obstruction, or fewer lanes ahead.
previous | table of contents | next