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Safe Distance Between Cars While Driving

According to recent research, there are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the United States every year. These accidents injure about 500,000 people, many of whom suffer injuries to the neck and back. Even low-speed collisions can create enough force to injure a person's neck.

These accidents are entirely preventable with safe driving practices. Maintaining a safe distance between cars is a key requirement for preventing rear-end accidents. Doing so makes sure drivers have enough time and distance to stop their vehicle if the front vehicle suddenly stops.

What Is the Minimum Driving Distance in Texas?

Texas law requires drivers to provide the “assured clearance distance” needed for any situation. This means drivers must allow the space required to stop if the vehicle following them suddenly stops moving. However, Texas has no specific criteria for what "assured clearance distance" is. A law enforcement officer may give a ticket for following too close at their discretion. A decision to give a ticket is usually based on road conditions, weather, and traffic.

The Texas Department of Safety has written best practices for the driving distance between vehicles. It takes the average person about 1.5 seconds to react to a situation and apply the brakes. With this in mind, the Texas Department of Safety recommends at least 2 seconds between each vehicle if traveling under 30mph and a minimum of 4 seconds for vehicles going faster.

The guidelines above should be considered simple guidelines—in many instances such as thick traffic, wet roads, or low-visibility, drivers will need to provide much longer than the suggested 2-4 seconds of stopping time. If you'd like to tell how far behind another car you are, you should find an object between you and the other car and count the time it takes for you to reach that object after the other vehicle has passed it.

Safe Following Distance for Commercial Trucks

Truck accidents lead to some of the most devastating injuries and fatalities, leaving loved ones heartbroken. One of the most important steps truckers can take to remain safe is also one of the most basic: keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.

Semis, big rigs, and 18-wheelers populate every U.S. road. Statistics reveal that accidents caused by truck drivers are often from failing to keep a safe following distance. There are several factors to blame here, including speeding. While the flow of vehicles on a highway is often the determining factor in traffic speed, it is a dangerous practice for truck drivers. Commercial trucks need ample space to stop, so speeding endangers other drivers.

Let's take a look at the safe following distance for trucks and what happens when drivers don't observe this.

How Fast Can Trucks Drive?

Drivers must maintain cautious speeds, especially when weather conditions are unsafe. The law dictates that heavy truck operators are required to reduce their speed by one-third in rainy or wet road conditions. When snow, dust, smoke, sleet, or rain affect visibility, drivers must take necessary precautions—they may even be required to pull over.

However, some trucking companies pressure drivers to ignore regulations in order to meet deadlines.

For example, a trucker shouldn’t drive 55 mph simply because it’s the speed limit for their type of vehicle. Instead, they should consider things such as:

  • How fast other vehicles are traveling
  • The density of traffic
  • Road conditions such as rain, ice, and snow
  • How much cargo they’re hauling

When their job is on the line, some drivers may compromise on safety precautions. For this reason, many semi-trucks are seen speeding down a rainy freeway. Whether this is the result of driver carelessness or poor training, truck drivers or trucking companies should be held liable for injuries incurred from irresponsible speeds in unsafe weather conditions. Failing to maintain a safe following distance for trucks puts everyone on the road at risk.

The Rule of Seconds: How Truckers Can Keep a Safe Distance

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggests that drivers follow The Rule of Seconds. This rule states that any truckers driving below 40 mph must leave at least one second between them and the next vehicle for every 10 feet in length of their truck. If a truck is traveling above 40 mph—such as on highways where they’re often permitted to travel at 55 mph—they should add an additional second for each additional 10 mph they're traveling. 

For example, tractor-trailers are typically 40 feet long, meaning a driver should be able to count four seconds between when the vehicle in front of them passes an object and they reach it while traveling at 40 mph. If traveling above 40 mph, a driver should count at least eight seconds between them and the vehicle they’re following.

Importantly, The Rule of Seconds isn’t something that applies to all situations, and it’s up to drivers to determine how much time they need to stop based on their vehicle’s weight, length, stopping capabilities, and driving conditions.

Remember, it can take a semi as long as 525 feet to make a complete stop. 

Truck Drivers Need to Be Aware of All Potential Hazards on the Road

Trained commercial drivers are not only given clear guidelines to follow for a safe following distance for trucks. They are also informed of all factors that may cause an accident and are expected to self-monitor all of those potential dangers while operating their vehicle.

Expectations of truck drivers include:

  • Keeping to the safe distance rule: Drivers must allow at least 1 second for every 10 feet when traveling under 40mph. If going over 40mph, drivers are supposed to allow for an additional second per 10 feet.
  • Consideration of their load size: Depending on the weight they are carrying, truck drivers should allow for extra space between cars if their load will hinder their stopping abilities.
  • Maintaining their vehicle: Truckers and fleet operators must make sure vehicles are properly maintained and ready to meet the demands of the road.
  • Allowing for human reaction time: It takes a considerable amount of time for us to see the closing distance, register that it is a potential danger, and then react to it. Drivers are supposed to be trained to allow extra time for human error.
  • Monitoring their own fatigue: It is the responsibility of the commercial driver to pull over and rest if they feel too tired or too distracted to safely operate their vehicle.

No deadline justifies the emotional pain a family suffers from losing a loved one. Every case reminds us of that.

If you have been injured in a car accident, truck accident, or any collision involving a failure to maintain a safe following distance, call our Houston motor vehicle accident lawyers today at (888) 493-1629.

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