Tailgating is essentially following the vehicle in front of you too closely…okay everyone knows that. But exactly how close is TOO close?
Drivers Handbooks and Textbooks state that the recommended MINIMUM safe following distance allows for 2 seconds of time lapse, meaning that when the rear bumper of the vehicle in front of you passes a certain spot on the road, the front bumper of your vehicle passes that exact spot NO EARLIER then 2 seconds later. Since Distance=Rate*Time, and minimum time is a constant (2 seconds), this means that the distance will be variable based on the rate (speed) at which you are driving. Given these conditions, here is a list of rates with the minimum recommended following distance. Please note that this thumb rule is for optimal driving conditions (dry pavement, 100% visibility, etc) only. If your driving conditions (or your reaction time) is not optimal, a larger following distance should be used in order to avoid a rear end collision.
35 MPH – Travelling at 51.3 Feet Per Second – Minimum Recommended Following Distance is 102 Feet (6 car lengths)
45 MPH – Travelling at 66 Feet Per Second – Minimum Recommended Following Distance is 132 Feet (7 and 1/3 car lengths)
55 MPH – Travelling at 80.6 Feet Per Second – Minimum Recommended Following Distance is 161 Feet (9 car lengths)
65 MPH – Travelling at 95.3 Feet Per Second – Minimum Recommended Following Distance is 191 Feet (10 and 2/3 car lengths)
75 MPH – Travelling at 110 Feet Per Second – Minimum Recommended Following Distance is 220 Feet (12 and 1/3 car lengths)
Note: One car length equates to 18 feet.
According to the NHTSA, more youthful drivers reported less risk involved while they were tailgating another vehicle. Ultimately, it is something that education alone cannot teach, but must be learned through experience….which is probably why insurance is so expensive when you add a teenage driver.