If you are following a vehicle ahead of you too closely and that vehicle must brake quickly, you may not be able to react quickly enough to avoid a crash. These are scenarios in which you should keep a longer following distance:
- When traveling on roads that are slippery, wet, or unpaved
- When the driver behind you wants to pass
- When you are following a driver whose rear view is obstructed. This can occur in vans or trucks.
- When you have a large vehicle blocking your front view
- When you are approaching slow moving vehicles. This includes bicycles.
- When you are following a vehicle, which must make an unexpected stop, such as a bus or taxi.
- When you are driving downhill.
- When you are stopped on an uphill road. When you begin to drive again, your car may drift backward.
If you need to escape a dangerous situation, such as the vehicle in front of you braking quickly when you have not properly used a safe following distance, your main routes for escape are to the front left or front right areas of your car. In the event that you need to quickly change lanes in order to avoid a dangerous situation, be aware of cars in the left and right lanes so that you do not cause an accident or dangerous situation simply by trying to avoid one.
Driving in the center of your lane is important to maintain a cushion around your vehicle. If there is a hazard in the road, then it is appropriate to drive on either the left or right side of your lane if you have ensured that you will remain at a safe distance from other vehicles. Beware if avoiding a hazard in the road means that you need to switch to another lane. Always check your rear and side view mirrors and your blind spot if you need to change lanes. Remember that keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, and a cushion around your vehicle, helps you to have a better reaction time to potential dangers as well as an escape route to the front left or front right areas. Always use your turn signals when changing lanes so other cars will understand what you are trying to accomplish.
Many traffic accidents are the result of human error, and this means that every driver needs to maintain awareness of their own driving and the driving of the cars around them, and of any other potential dangers on the road.
Since the driver behind you has more control over their following distance than you do, you need to ensure that you keep that driver aware of your intentions. If you need to slow down in order to turn or change lanes, be sure to use a turn signal. If the driver directly behind you is following too closely, which is called tailgating, you should move into the right lane. If you are already in the right traffic lane, you can tap gently on your brakes in order to alert that driver of their close following distance. Otherwise, you should maintain a steady speed and wait for the other driver to go around. Be aware of all vehicles driving around you and the speed at which they are driving. The person behind you may be tailgating because you are not keeping up with the flow of traffic, or you are driving under the speed limit.