*** F is for Following Distance ***
This is also known as a ‘separation distance’. It refers to the gap that we leave between our vehicle and the vehicle in front.
It’s important that we leave a good gap in case anything suddenly happens in front – it gives us time to react and slow or stop safely. Road traffic collisions are often caused by vehicles following the vehicle in front too closely.
It’s essential that drivers are able to judge a good separation distance in all types of conditions – whether it’s bad weather, heavy road traffic, different road conditions etc.
Sometimes in heavy, slow-moving traffic, it may not be realistic to leave a large separation distance. This could waste valuable road space especially in queues, and as you’re moving slowly, you will be able to stop quicker anyway. Even so, your separation distance should never be less than your thinking distance.
Your overall stopping distance is made up of your thinking distance and braking distance. This can depend on a variety of factors, including;
How fast you’re going.
Whether you’re travelling uphill or downhill.
The conditions of the road.
The type and age of your vehicle.
The condition of your brakes and tyres.
The size and weight of your vehicle.
Your ability as a driver, and your reaction times.
A good way to judge a safe separation gap is to use the ‘two-second rule’. This is measured by counting two seconds from when the vehicle in front passes a stationary object, to when you pass the same stationary object.
If you are still counting to two when you pass the stationary object, this means you are too close to the vehicle in front and you need to drop back to give yourself a safer separation distance.
If you have finished counting to two by the time you pass the stationary object, this means you have a good, safe separation gap.
A good way to accurately judge this distance is to use the phrase "Only a fool breaks the two-second rule"– this takes approximately two seconds to say!
If the road conditions are wet, you should double the two-second rule, making it four seconds.
One phrase for this is "Only a fool breaks the two-second rule. When it’s wet on the floor, then make it four!"
Also, remember spray from the vehicle in front may make visibility even worse – consider leaving an even bigger gap so that you can see clearly ahead.
When the conditions are icy or snowy, you should times the two-second rule by ten, making it 20 seconds! I haven't come up with a saying for this, if you have a suggestion I'd love to hear it!
When a vehicle is following you too closely (sometimes called "tailgating" or "being a space-invader"), gently ease off your accelerator and gradually increase the gap between you and the vehicle in front.
If you have a bigger gap between you and the vehicle in front, should anything happen, you will have even more time to react and can brake more gradually, which will give the vehicle behind time to react too.
Pay it forward - If the vehicle behind steals your space, give it to the car infront.
*Reproduced with the kind permission of Mercury Driving School