How to “Count Off” a Safe Braking Distance

Rear-end auto collisions are among the most common types of traffic accidents. They’re also one of the most avoidable, if you keep your distance from the vehicle in front of you.

The “count-off” braking-distance test can be used anytime, at any speed. Simply watch for the vehicle in front of you to pass a sign or other landmark and begin counting: “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, etc.”

You should be at least 2 seconds behind them in daytime conditions on good roads. (3-4 seconds, when traffic conditions allow it.) This gives you time to steer clear if the driver ahead of you has a problem.


Poor Weather Braking Distance

For rainy, foggy and nighttime driving conditions, increase your following distance to at least 4 seconds. For more challenging conditions, like snow and heavy rain, increase your braking distance to a minimum of 6-10 seconds.

Drivers tend to travel in tight herds,  clustering together from one traffic light to the next, and if you leave a safe stopping distance in heavier traffic, other drivers often try to fill the space by “cutting you off.” When this happens, let them do it. Back off again to maintain your stopping distance. It won’t take much longer to get where you’re going, and you’ll be more likely to get there safely.