Too Close for Comfort: How Two Seconds Could Save Your Life

by Brady Myles - 3 Min Read

A new study by MOVE_UK and telematics company The Floow reveals that we are in the middle of a new epidemic in the UK.

After analysing over 8,500 hours and 100,000 miles of driving – that’s about the same as 60-year’s of driving – the new report reveals that British drivers are far worse at keeping their distance when out on the road than previously believed. They are creating dangerous conditions by failing to maintain a proper distance between their car and the ones in front and behind them as well as when changing lanes/cutting in. Combined, this dramatically increases the chances of having an accident.

Remember the code

Rule 126 of the Highway Code states you should:

• leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops. The safe rule is never to get closer than the overall stopping distance (see Typical Stopping Distances diagram below).

• allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads.

Getting it deadly wrong
The report reveals that drivers are paying lip service to the code though and, in particular, that all-important two-second rule. For instance:

20%
of drivers cut in between cars, leaving less than a second between them and the car in front; this means other drivers – especially the person behind – have less reaction time.

1.35 second-gap
is the typical time being left by drivers traveling at 25mph or more; that’s not enough.

10x
more braking distance is required in icy or snowy conditions compared to dry conditions. According to the study, most drivers are ignoring this; the research shows motorists typically only increase their distance by two metres. Again, that’s nowhere near enough to match the recommended two extra seconds of distance.

And the sting in the tail? For those drivers who do leave a safe distance between themselves and the car in front, they are having their code-adhering driving ‘penalised’ by dangerous drivers who believe they can cut in because there is such a large space between the two cars.

What it means for you
According to Dr Sam Chapman, Chief Innovation Officer of The Floow, “because cutting in dangerously close to the car in front is rarely enforced as an offence, many drivers have developed some very bad habits.

“Though UK accident statistics are not available for this behaviour as a specific cause of collisions, the MOVE_UK findings would suggest that dangerous manoeuvres and tailgating has reached epidemic proportions in the UK. And without time to brake safely, accidents will happen.”

How to make sure you stay safe

Remember, the faster you’re travelling, the longer it takes for your car – and you – to stop. It’s not just about stopping the car either but your reaction time as well.

To help stick to stopping distances, always adhere to the two-second rule to help judge the distance between you and the car in front (and adjust it depending on weather conditions). If you’re struggling to count, use a roadside object; when the car in front passes the object, check if there is two seconds between them passing it and you passing it.

If you are considering changing lanes and moving in between two cars when on a dual carriageway or a motorway, always consider the gap you’re moving into – is it big enough that the car behind won’t have to apply their brakes to avoid a collision with you?

“Drivers need to start taking control and adhering to the rules that have been in place since the 1970s,” says Dr Chapman. “You’d fail your driving test if you cut in without leaving a safe gap. Our research demonstrates that drivers need to respect safe distances throughout their driving years – not just when they’re taking their test.”

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