What factors can help determine a safe following distance?

safe distance


Some drivers may feel that if you are staying alert. scanning the road for hazards, and driving at the posted speed limit that it doesn’t matter how closely you drive behind another vehicle.  Every time you drive, you must pay attention to how much space you are leaving in front of and beside your vehicle.  If you make a habit of following other vehicles too closely, you may not be able to avoid an accident if the driver in front of you hits their brakes suddenly.  To determine how much space is needed, you must consider the following factors.



Is snow or rain causing the road to be slick?  Is your visibility limited by rain or fog?  Keep alert to changing weather conditions that could slowly affect safe driving conditions.


Time of day

Are you traveling in a direction that leaves you with the sun glaring in your eyes?  Or, if it is dark outside, do the headlights of oncoming vehicles make it difficult for you to see?  Animals can be difficult to spot at night or on narrow country roads, especially at dusk. 


Traffic conditions

Is traffic heavy?  Is there anything in the road ahead that could cause the vehicle in front of you to stop abruptly?  Is there merging traffic that will bring more vehicles into your path?  Good driving habits involve constantly scanning your surroundings and keeping an eye for safe paths if something requires you to react suddenly to avoid objects, animals or even pedestrians or other motorists.

While this is not an exhaustive list of factors that can affect how you determine a safe following distance, it can help to be mindful of ever-changing driving situations that must be considered.


At NHSA, our goal is to provide online driver education courses that equip all drivers with what they need to be safe drivers.  Whether you are a teen seeking a learner’s permit, or an adult driver seeking a basic driver safety course, check us out online to see what courses are available in your state!

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