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Why the three-second following distance matters

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | Auto Accidents

Most people will agree that a three-second following distance should be the minimum for any driver on the road. They can easily count this off by looking at stationary objects on the side of the road. There should always be at least three seconds between vehicles.

But why is this distance so important? It’s all about reaction time. People often think that they react immediately, but they actually don’t. It takes time, and those three seconds are the buffer that allows the driver to react and avoid a rear-end accident.

A delay in perception

First of all, the driver has to perceive the need to push the brakes. They have to see traffic slowing down ahead of them, for instance. It takes a person an average of 0.75 seconds just to mentally process this – and that’s only if they’re not distracted. They don’t even start to slow the car down during this time, but simply realize that it’s going to be necessary.

A delay in physical action

Next, that person has to take their foot off of the gas, move it over to the brake pedal and then begin pushing this pedal down. Again, drivers often think of this as an instantaneous reaction, but it takes an average of another 0.75 seconds.

All told, this means that a driver needs at least 1.5 seconds just to start pushing the brakes. With a three-second following distance, they have time to go through this process and begin slowing the car. But if they have a shorter following distance, such as two seconds, they are far more likely to be involved in an accident.

Have you been injured in a rear-end accident that another driver caused? You may be able to seek financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other costs.