You may think leaving one car length between you and the car in front of you is safe.
But, that's not always the case.
Safe following distances vary according to traffic speed and weather conditions and according to the type of vehicle you're driving.
In good conditions, you should allow 2 seconds between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
Here's an easy way to work that out.
Pick a mark on the road or an object close to the left hand side of the road, such as a power pole.
When the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes that object, count 'one thousand one, one thousand two'.
If the front of your car passes the object before you've finished counting, drop back, you're following too closely.
Now if you're towing a trailer or caravan, you'll need to allow 2 seconds, plus an extra second for every 3 metres of trailer.
If you're driving a heavy vehicle, double the distance and allow at least 4 seconds following distance.
If conditions are poor, also allow 4 seconds between you and the car in front, more if you are driving a heavy vehicle.
Rear-end collisions are the most common types of crashes, so play safe and keep your distance.
The distance that it will take you to stop your car depends on the speed at which you are travelling. The faster you go, the longer the stopping distance. For example, you need twice the distance to stop from 90km/hour compared with stopping from 60 km/hour, even in the best possible driving conditions - that is, on a sealed, dry road.
This means that you must increase the following-distance between you and the vehicle ahead as you increase speed. If you don't do this you may crash into the back of the vehicle ahead if it has to stop quickly. This type of crash happens to a lot of drivers each year, but there's an easy way to avoid this. It's called the "3 second rule".
The "3 second rule"
If you pass the object you picked out before you finish saying all the words, you are following too closely. Slow down, pick another roadside object and repeat the words again to make sure that you have increased your following distance enough.
What's good about the "3 second rule" is that it helps you keep a safe following-distance at any speed. Using the "3 second rule" gives you a bigger following-distance the faster you drive.
Generally speaking, you should allow more than a 3 second following-distance in rain, fog and on icy roads. You should also use a longer following-distance at night because it's harder to judge distances and spot hazards when driving in the dark.
What a safe following-distance looks like
Key points summary: Keeping a safe following-distance
Practice exercises: Using the rule