How to keep a safe distance behind other vehicles

What exactly is a "safe" distance behind another vehicle on the road?

You may remember being told that you should find a fixed object somewhere ahead and count the seconds between the moment the vehicle in front of you passes that object and the moment when you pass that object. Ideally, drivers were usually told there should be three to five seconds of space between the vehicles at all time in order to have a safe following interval.

That's not exactly accurate.

How much space you need between your vehicle and another vehicle on the road also depends on the type of vehicle in front of you.

According to the experts, you need to stay at least 50 feet -- or about four car lengths -- behind farm equipment at all times. These slow, bulky vehicles typically only travel short distances on the highway, so they're apt to make sudden stops as they prepare to turn off into fields or down access roads.

If you're caught behind a snow plow this winter, however, you need to give yourself five car lengths worth of space at all times. That gives you extra time to react if the driver does something unpredictable or suddenly drops the plow and slows down.

If you're behind a semi or another commercial truck, you need to keep in mind the fact that the driver has large blind spots. Stay at least 300 feet back (roughly the length of 20 cars) in order to be visible in the driver's rearview mirror.

Weather also plays a role in how much space you need to give other vehicles if you want to avoid a rear-end collision. In wet or snowy conditions, double the amount of space you grant other vehicles -- even other passenger cars -- just to be safe.

If you end up in a car accident through no fault of your own, you may suffer significant expenses related to your injuries, the damage to your vehicle and missed time at work. Make sure that you find out more about your right to compensation for those losses.

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