Keep a safe following distance to avoid rear-end crashes.

Rear-end crashes account for a relatively small percentage of overall accidents, but they represent more than 20% of the total cost of claims. A rear-end crash can lead to injury, death, citations, fines, property damage, emotional pain and distress, and even job loss.

What are the factors involved in rear-end crashes?

Rear-end crashes normally occur in high-density urban areas. They occur due to a variety of factors: high or low speeds, inattention or distraction, sudden unexpected actions of others, failure to adjust speed to road and traffic conditions, and of course improper following distance. Mental and physical factors can also contribute to rear-end crashes, including; fatigue, illness or impaired driving, stress, aggressive driving and even road rage.

What is a proper following distance?

The proper following distance is the distance it takes to bring your vehicle to a stop before you contact the vehicle in front of you. To determine a proper following distance you must understand the steps involved in stopping a vehicle:

Perception distance: distance your vehicle travels from the time your eye recognizes a hazard and sends a signal to the brain.

Reaction distance: distance a vehicle travels in the time it takes to get off the accelerator and on the brakes.

Brake lag: the time from when the brake is applied until the actual braking takes place.

Braking distance: distance a vehicle travels after braking until the vehicle stops.

Stopping distance: total time period from perception distance to braking distance. The following chart shows approximate truck and auto stopping distances:

What is safe following distance?
Speed Truck Auto
20 mph 52 ft. 42 ft.
55 mph 335 ft. 224 ft.
65 mph 525 ft. 316 ft.

A safe following distance is never less than six seconds. Add another second for each of the following conditions:

  • Speeds over 40 mph
  • Each adverse condition (anything affecting visibility or traction)
  • Special handling vehicles (tankers, double/triples, bobtails)
  • If you’re being tailgated

Reduce your speed by 3–5 mph in heavy traffic to help maintain a safe following distance. Remember, a 20 mph difference in speed can create enough force in a crash to severely injure an individual. The greater the speed, the more force generated in a crash and the greater the chance of death or serious injury.

Rear-end crashes are preventable!

The only way to prevent these very dangerous and expensive crashes is to maintain proper following distance and to control your speed so that no matter what happens in front of you; YOU can avoid a collision.

The information contained in this report was obtained from sources which, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, are authentic and reliable. Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. makes no guarantee of results and assumes no liability in connection with either the information herein contained, or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein, or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedures.