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Safe Following Distance

Driving ImageAn Open Letter
to the Young Woman with Big Round Glasses
who was following me this morning
on Walnut Street in Dallas:

 

You were tailgating.

I appreciate that you were probably in a great hurry, but the speed limit through there is 40mph. Pretty reasonable, considering that we have a residential neighborhood on one side, a college on the other, and at least one nursery school where little kids are getting walked to class. If you're worried about being late somewhere, my best suggestion is to leave earlier.

 

As for the tailgating, at times you looked to be about 20 feet behind me. You must not realize how dangerous that is.

If I, for some reason, had had to slam on my brakes AND you had immediately noticed this and slammed on your brakes AND everyone's brakes were working perfectly, you still wouldn't have been able to stop before you hit me. Cars travel at roughly 1.5 feet per second time their speed. At 40mph, you were going about 60 feet per second, which is three times the amount of distance between our bumpers. If you'd seen my brakes and responded immediately, your car still would have hit mine before your brakes could do their job.

That's why a safe following distance is so important.

Keep at least three seconds between you and the car ahead of you

That means that when I passed one of those green light poles, you should have been able to say “1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand” before you passed the same pole.

Remember: three seconds following distance. It will seem like a lot, but any less and you're not giving your brakes adequate room to bring your car to a stop.

Three seconds when driving conditions are good.

More if it's dark or there's traffic or if the roads are wet.

A lot more if the roads are icy.

 

This isn't that big a neighborhood, so the odds of me being on the same road at the same time of day as you are probably pretty good. Hopefully the next time we run into each other, we won't run into each other.


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