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Why following distance is measured in time?

Following distance in your vehicle is measured in time because as your speed increases so too does your following distance.


When teaching new, upgrading drivers, and defensive driving, it is paramount that they learn minimum following distances.

Because it is faster to steer out an emergency than to brake; however, to steer a driver requires space.

By controlling and maintaining space in front of her vehicle, a driver is going to be safer overall.

As well, the space in front is one of the few space around a vehicle that a driver can always control.

 Managing space well in front of your vehicle is a critical skill for defensive driving.

Reduce the chances of being involved in a crash by increasing your following distance behind traffic.

Determining following distance in time (seconds):

  • Pick a stationary object in the distance.
  • When the vehicle you are following passes that fixed object - begin counting.
  • "1 drunk elephant, 2 drunk elephants, 3 drunk elephants...."
  • When you pass the fixed object, the number you counted is your following distance.

Time is used to determine following distance because as speeds increase so too does the distance between vehicles.

Following distance in your vehicle is measured in time because as your speed increases so too does your following distance.

Every now and again other drivers will move into the space. Simply back off and reclaim your space.

Yes, other drivers will move into the space, but simply reclaim your space in front.

At 60km/hr, for example, a vehicle travels at approximately 17m/s.

At 100km/hr your vehicle is travelling at 28m/s.

If you maintain a 2 second following distance at 60km/h your following distance will be approximately 35m and at 100km/hr it will increase to 55m.

2 seconds allows a good amount of both space and time to conduct emergency manoeuvres.

Know however, that this following distance must increase as road conditions deteriorate (traffic congestions, light conditions, drivers’ fitness, vehicle condition, road surface, weather).

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