Maintain a Safe Following Distance (The 3 Second Rule)

Maintain a Safe Following Distance (The 3 Second Rule)

Good Weather - During daylight with good, dry roads and low traffic volume, you can ensure you're a safe distance from the car ahead of you by following the "three-second rule." The distance changes at different speeds.

To determine the right following distance, first select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand." If you reach the object before completing the count, you're following too closely. Making sure there are three seconds between you and the car ahead gives you time and distance to respond to problems in the lane ahead of you.

Inclement Weather, Heavy Traffic, or Night-Time Driving - In heavy traffic, at night, or when weather conditions are not ideal (eg. light rain, light fog, light snow), double the three second rule to six seconds, for added safety.

Poor Weather - If the weather conditions are very poor, eg. heavy rain, heavy fog, or heavy snow, start by tripling the three second rule to nine seconds to determine a safe following distance.

Tailgating - Following a vehicle too closely is called 'tailgating'. Tailgating is an agressive driving behaviour that is easily mistaken for road rage. Use the three-second rule to avoid tailgating. Most rear end collisions are caused by the vehicle in back following too closely. If someone is tailgating you, move to another lane or turn off the road as soon as possible and allow the tailgating vehicle to pass.

Three-Second RuleSafe Interval Should Be >3 seconds6 seconds
SpeedDistance Traveled For These Conditions >GoodMarginal
25 m.p.h. 37 ft. per second 111 ft.222 ft.
35 m.p.h. 52 ft. per second 166 ft.312 ft.
45 m.p.h. 66 ft. per second 198 ft.396 ft.
55 m.p.h. 81 ft. per second243ft.

486 ft.

65 m.p.h. 96 ft. per second288 ft.576 ft.
75 m.p.h. 111 ft. per second333 ft.666 ft.
 Safe Following Distance in Feet

 

Do You Tailgate Dangerously? - Dr Driving (aka Leon James Ph.D.)

Those that drive family & economy cars tailgate less than those who drive sportscars and SUVs by a ratio of 2 to 1.
The results for the 10 states in this sample for which I had enough respondents to make statistical comparisons, show the worst five States with a mean of 21% dangerous tailgating: Colorado (25%), Georgia (20%), Pennsylvania (20%), Michigan (19%), Texas (19%). The lowest tailgating States are: Illinois (8%), New York (10%), Florida (14%), Ohio (15%), California (18%).

There are as you might expect, age differences as well as gender differences. Among young drivers, 19% admit to tailgating dangerously, which is about one in five. This is more than middle aged drivers (15%) and senior drivers (6%). This age pattern recurs in many aggressive driving behaviors: as we get older, we drive less aggressively. Women admit to as much tailgating as men (15%), in general, but once again there are significant influences attributable to the type of car they drive, as show in this table:

TailgatingType Of Vehicle
Sex Of DriverFamily / Economy CarsSports CarsSUVs
Male13%23%18%
Female13%20%25%

You can see that those drive the "soft" cars (family and economy) tailgate less than those who drive the "hard" cars (sports and SUV) with a ratio of two to one. This holds true for both men and women. However, with SUV drivers we see a reversal between the genders: more female SUV drivers tailgate dangerously, by their own admission, than male drivers of SUVs.

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Comments

Vote up!
2544

If the lane to your right is empty, your in the wrong lane!

If you just got passed on the right, your in the wrong lane!

If you can't or won't drive the speed limit, use another road that suits your vehicle or style of driving!

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1454

You couldn't have said it better. It always amazes when I come upon a driver riding the left lane of a two-lane interstate. I've actually had suituations where I'll sit behind them, flash my brights, honk, and still still they don't get the hint. Personally, I feel law enforcement should do less sitting in the median with their radar guns and a little bit more enforement for all the other traffic laws. If ignorence is their excuse, than this country needs to make getting a license a little tougher (just look at Germany).

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1433

when your driving 2 to 3 miles over the speed limit and in the left or fast lane, why should I move over because idoits don't leave early enough to get to there job, appointment or where ever there going. I see a lot of dumb things by drivers like eating, texting, dogs in there laps. I even seen people start to pull down a one-way the wrong way. I watch older people walking to there cars, disable and get in and start driving when you know there reflexes are not fast enough to stop in an emergency. I agree the law enforcement should enforce all traffic laws including not letting drivers drive 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit, which I see every day.

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1431

Do you really think 5-10 miles over the limit isn't safe? What about passing or the fact that your speedo is most likely only accurate within 5 to 10 mph? the left lane is for passing if you are in it and people need to pass you on the right then you are both causing traffic as well as creating an unsafe driving environment.

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1348

The left lane is for passing, you should pass as quickly as possible and then get back over. If that is too scary for you stay out of the left lane. It is not yours to keep, regardless of your opinions on the self discipline of others.

To all you speed haters I would argue that the only reason we have such low speed limits is because our drivers are so uneducated. The autobahn with no speed limit and regular speeds of over 200mph has a lower fatality rate than the US highway system.

This is because in most other countries people are required to spend a considerable degree more effort learning to drive. I have to agree with this as cars are lethal weapons that can kill several people at once as well as cause millions in property damage.

We need to take driving and the ability to drive seriously, and pull over people who don't understand how the lanes work. They should NOT be driving.

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2372

A recent tailgating type on the rise is when there is more than one lane in the same direction and a tailgater pulls up within 5 feet at the speed limit, usually 55-65mph; although there is plenty of room to pass safely. (no provocation)

I have not figured out a good way to get rid of such a tailgater. Although, at night dropping my rearview mirror to reflect tailgaters headlights back at tailgater seems to work most of the time.

Looking for suggestions.

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1483

Stamp on the brakes.
Works for me.

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1247

I always assume that the car immediately next to me is planning to turn in front of me. Based on that assumption, I have ridden thousands of miles on the streets of Eugene without even a slam-on-the-brakes close call by doing the following:
1. NEVER passing a car when I'm in the bike lane and we're close to an intersection or other potential turning location. The risk-reward ratio is just too high. I adjust my speed while approaching such intersections so that I am either well ahead of or well behind a car.
2. LOOKING carefully and continually at cars traveling next to me at the same speed as me to see if I can gauge their intentions. Watch the driver's head to see if they are looking around in preparation for a turn, talking on a cell phone, or doing anything else that is highly correlated with an upcoming unexpected maneuver. 3. MOVING either subtly or forcefully into the auto travel lane when necessary for short distances in order to avoid obstacles or make an ambiguous situation clear.and most effective.
4. AVOIDING busy streets with bike lanes when possible. I always choose 12th or 15th over 11th or 13th when biking east-west between the university and downtown, for example. I take the whole lane and know that there is no possibility of a right hook crash. There are more stop signs, but I'd rather arrive in one piece than sweaty and two minutes earlier.

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2502

Woman tailgate waaaay more often then men, no matter the vehicle. This survey was self-report, and woman often don't even know they tailgate. I often signal to the tailgator behind me with hand signals, and the women tend to reply with questioning exasperation; they don't know why I am upset. I truly believe that most women simply don't get it. (All of that said, *when* a male tailgates he often is much closer than a woman.)

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1628

My experience is just the opposite men tailgate more get closer and get angry about others tailgating !!

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2395

I use the 3 second rule all the time, but it doesn't work if your driving 65 and someone decides to stop on the interstate to avoid debris. I decided to stay in my lane, bad idea. I should have took over the next lane.... I rented a car for the rest of our vacation.

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2534

The majority of drivers don't even know they follow too close!! I catch myself breaking the minimum two second rule but many drivers don't even allow themselves one second of distance!!
I would bet you're numbers are badly skewed since your reporing is from drivers themselves, many of which have poor judgement and knowledge of safe following distance.
I would confidently suggest a realistic figure be that about 85% of drivers regularly tailgate, 40% at less than one second distance, and 20% dangerously close.

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2453

I think this is indeed a common problem but MOST of the time it's caused by the driver in the front not moving to the right. Slow drivers on the left lanes really increase traffic problems and generate this type of situation, where the driver in the second car is just trying to tell him/her: 'go faster or get out of the way'. If we drive politely and let the ones going faster to pass, then none of this will happen.

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2421

nice rulers

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2453

I try not to tailgate, but due to city driving conditions, I am sure that my 3 seconds diminishes to 1.5 from time to time. A way to improve your time to react is to look through next car's windshield. You can see many (though not all) the reasons that guy might suddenly slow down. I know this is not foolproof, but it is better than nothing.

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1582

This is similar to the rule that you should be able to see 12-seconds ahead of yourself. If you're stuck behind a semi-truck trailer or some other type of vehicle that obstructs your view, then you should slow down significantly to account for being unable to see well.

I was talking to one person about passing through traffic lights, and he mentioned that sometimes if you're behind a semi-truck that you won't notice that the light has turned red until you're already in the intersection, to which I responded, "well, you're following it too closely then!"

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1667

I think 6 seconds in inclement conditions is too conservative. In congested traffic, someone will always be jumping into the gap you create, and you'll have to slow to then maintain that distance behind the person who jumped in. Then you'll be going too slow and get hit from behind.
It's far more important to be alert and avoid distractions than to be creating a huge gap between you and the car in front.

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1693

I've driven over 750 000 km and have found tailgating one of the most stressful experiences, particularly on dual carriageways that have two lanes. If you are travelling at 110 km in the centre lane (the speed limit) and the car in the gutter lane is travelling the same speed then neither you nor the other motorist is obliged to do anything especially when their lane is full. So speeding motorists and tailgaters back-off. Further-more if you speed-up to try and move left to let the tailgater overtake, you'll never get back as the tailgaters travel dangerously close, hanging onto each other's bum fluff.

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1548

When two cars travel 3 seconds apart at 25 mph they can fit in a certain size space. When those cars accelerate to 75 that space needs to be three times bigger. What you are asking for here is gridlock!!!. Atlanta area traffic would have to constantly be going 20 mph to fit all the cars that use the highways daily.

Pay attention, use the left lane for passing only, and for god's sake tighten up the formation so we can all get to where we are going. If you think it is dangerous perhaps it is but we do it daily here in the ATL and somehow the roads aren't littered with bodies.

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1532

Keeping a safe following distance on interstates in New Jersey and PA during rush hour is a daunting challenge due to 'gap fillers'. People think your buffer zone is an opening to pass, change lanes, make progress. Like others say above, they just don't get it. Takes persistence.

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1500

If you think someone's tailgating, just get out of the way and let them by! Too many times, during many long daily commutes, I've seen drivers slam on their brakes because they think someone is following too closely.

Not only is that incredibly dangerous, it's arrogant and stupid: you're just endangering everyone on the road. GET OVER and let them by!

Refusal to get over is much more aggressive and dangerous than simply sucking it up and moving to the left. Unless you're a traffic cop, you've got no right whatsoever to attempt to control another driver, and it's just sheer foolishness to do so. #77 on your cell phone calls just about every State Trooper Barracks on an interstate, regardless of where you are. Please take the next exit, report the jerk, and get back on the highway. Don't endanger everyone on the road! And, for goodness' sake!, don't call from the highway.

Just for the record, it's by far MORE aggressive to tell someone 'NO YOU WILL NOT' instead of asking 'may I pass?' That doesn't exonerate tailgaters, but doesn't it make more sense to just let them by?

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1575

The closer you get the slower I go - I just take my foot off the gas pedal.
If I'm doing the speed limit and you want to break the law, then PASS me.
They all get the message - including state troopers.

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1475

Yes, I do the same thing. I use the cruse control for a constant slower speed in right lane to save wear, tear & fuel. But when doing the limit with tailgater, will coast a bit down till they back off then back to speed limit. This seams to work well. If I am relaxed & enjoy the scenery, I'll merely pull off & let them all get by. Every body wins.

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1420

Not when it's a two lane road. The tailgater doesn't have any "special rights" over the one he/she is tailgating.

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1526

My cousin was driving in a sports car and a family/economy car was behind us. He was right behind us, about a foot, at all times. We moved to the left for him to pass, and he slowed down. We returned to the center lane, and he sped up. We then sped up 10 miles above the limit to get away from him, he went at least 30 miles faster to get past us, and stick the middle finger at us. We saw him 30 seconds later make a turn. People will tailgate for no purpose. Aside from the 10 miles we went to get ahead of him, we were driving 55, the limit.

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1511

I follow the 3 second rule and drive the speed limit. I make way for people who want to pass, but it is not always easy. I may be leaving space for traffic to merge into the right lane from the on ramp. This is even more necessary when they are following each other too closely! If you want to pass how about flashing your brights a couple of times? When you do pass why not leave a larger margin of safety when it is available? Bottom line, in traffic I increase the 3 second rule to 4 seconds when tailgated as per the CA Driver Handbook.

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1510

This is the best US website I've seen on this topic but unfortunately it is still not particularly accurate.

The deciding factor in creating a truly safe gap depends upon the road surface conditions, not visibility (for example, in truly thick fog -- mentioned above -- you possibly could not even SEE nine seconds ahead -- that is when a very different rule comes into play). The key is the coefficient of friction of the road surface, for it is *this* that governs braking and stopping distances, which in turn dictate the required following distances.

The rule is three seconds for a dry, clean road surface; double it to six seconds for a wet road surface (irrespective of whether or not it is still raining -- remember it is the available GRIP that counts); and the triple or even quadruple it (i.e. 9-12 seconds) for extremely wet or otherwise slippery road surfaces -- everything from standing water and the risk of aquaplaning, through soft snow, to ice (and at the latter point look for the first opportunity to terminate your journey before somebody else's bad driving on sheet-ice does it for you).

The original rule was 2-4-10 seconds but this was extended to 3-6-12 as a result of research which showed that real-life reaction times are significantly slower than people expect them to be (largely because of complacency and a failure to concentrate).

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1540

What ever happened to the rule that the left lane was called the 'passing lane'. It used to be against the law to camp out in the passing lane. This causes more road rage and also causes other drivers to weave in and out of traffic.

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1464

Left lane for passing yes for racing no! If you get behind somebody in the left lane doing 10 MPH over the limit, you have nothing to whine about.

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1550

I was driving and a person in a hummer and started tailgating me on a one way street. I increased my speed and he still followed. Then he rammed into my car (small economic car) and drve me off the road.. these people are crazzyyyy

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1610

Drivers on a local freeway habitually drive too close, and make the road very dangerous. I find the aggressive tailgaters appear to not be looking ahead.... perhaps so fixated on riding inches from the bumper of the car in front on them, fail to see the traffic ahead is stopping or slowing. I have had aggressive tailgaters swerve & weave in & out of lanes only to hit the wall of slowed traffic ahead.
Driving is all about giving yourself defensible space & looking further ahead. Often times these aggressive drivers wind up next to you at the off ramp at the stoplight. None of those dangerous/multiple lane changes made any difference in the long run. Is it considered a victory if you burn more gas & endanger other people & get to the red light first?

My husband was car 1 in a 3 car wreck on this road I mentioned. The driver behind him was following to closely as freeway traffic was approaching the rush hour logjam and traffic slows & stops. The Golden rule of driving, is you can't go faster than the car in front of you!
The car behind him slammed into his car, and the car behind that slammed into her car, causing her to hit car 1 a second time.
Two of the 3 cars were towed away, and eventually car 1 was declared a total loss, as well.

Luckily because of the traffic jam this happened at a slower speed, but this kind of driving could be fatal.

Respect your own life & others by giving space between vehicles.

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2179

You are suggesting that people distract themselves even more than they are already. The 3-second rule requires looking off to the side of the road and having a grasp on what three seconds duration is. One can count 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, 3-one thousand in 1 second or 10 seconds. This is a country where most people cannot multiply 12 x 11 without a calculator and you are asking them to do this? What was wrong with one car-length for every 10 miles per hour? Seems much simpler to me.

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1284

1) 1 car for every ten miles = less than 1 second of following distance
2) most people can not accuratlly judge a car length distance of more than one or two at best

This is why the new rules were developed. If your peripheral vision is so poor that you can spot a marker to the side of your car as you pass, you dont belong on the road. its a rough estimate, you dont have to hit your mark within in a tenth of a second.

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1253

How do you guess-a-mate your 6 car lengths for 60mph?? Good luck. Counting 3 seconds is easier and makes more sense.

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2086

I've found that using the windshield washer while being tailgated results in the tailgater backing off, with 99.9% results. Something about droplets of liquid landing on your windshield just makes you lift your throttle foot...

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1387

I've done that too and it usually works. If the person is inadvertently tailgating, they back off (the usual outcome). If it's a truly aggressive driver, they sometimes get more angry.

I just wish the wiper liquid was yellow instead of blue.

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1959

The biggest antidote to your own tendency to tailgate is to always leave reasonably early, allowing more time, which often also results in less traffic being on the road as well. People who take their time going to work, or home afterwards, have just as much right to the road as the rushers, no matter how the tailgaters try to make you feel otherwise.

And isn't that the point? Control your own emotions. Take an anger-management course; at least go to group therapy (which can often be done free of charge). Wouldn't you rather get to work actually ready for work? And wouldn't rather get home to your family looking forward to you getting there rather than dreading the sight of you, you overly-stressed-out grouch?

While being tailgated, stay logical, avoid strong emotion. Keep a clear head while deciding to do the windshield-washer thing or the get-out-the-way choice. Not very often, but I have actually been thanked by or received an apology from some who had been tailgating, but at-least-temporarily changed their mode of driving.

One way that has worked is that while being tailgated, take as-safe-as-possible opportunities to set the courteous example to 3rd parties in front of you; doing this has often produced discernible remorse in the driver behind, and had caused increased 'breathing space' for you both.

Vote up!
2032

I don't feel there is ANY excuse for tailgating, Even if you feel the vehicle in front of you is moving too slow. Tailgating jeopardizes your safety as well as that of the other driver and passengers as well.

I deal with the persistent ones by washing their vehicle with my windshield washer (along with the smashed bugs from my windshield).

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2056

Tailgaters should be executed.

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2065

Driving is a priviledge. Stick by the rule. It saves life.

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2176

Recently authorities have alerted on a new technique used by kidnappers: 3 vehicles, front, back and side make your car halt and then they approach with guns. Difficult to avoid: Be alert and keep your distances

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2025

i tailgate and if i see any of you on the roads i won't forget to wave while i am tailgating you

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1956

If someone is aggressively tailgating you, don't take chances. Get away from them. If you must, pull over onto the shoulder and let them pass (especiallly on 1 lane roads!). My uncle warned me that if they are THAT aggressive, there's the possibility they could be on drugs - even hallucinating. They could even have a gun, and pull along side you and shoot you. It's been done before. Don't let it be YOU that gets shot. Get out of their way and stay safe!

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2074

I don't use my top rear mirror except the outside rear mirrors. In this way I don't need to see the ugly faces of tailgaters. My only rule is to keep a following distance and press as gently as possible on the brakes even if nobody is following me. Another way is to drive with your hazard lights on since it encourage tailgaters to overtake you.

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2037

In India, we tailgate, headgate, nosegate, assgate and do whatever gating is possible.. There are no lanes, no traffic lights, no nothing.. it is total anarchy on roads with bikes, motorcycles, autos, cars, trucks, buffalos, dogs and pigs all on the same roads.. many places roads are non existent

Vote up!
1885

Be warned: Texas DPS Handbook states that safe following distance rule is '2 seconds' and not the '3 second Rule.' I have heard it is a typo but the DPS examiners grade the test w/ the 2 second rule. If you answer 3 second rule, you will be incorrect on the test. This also might explain why Texas has so many tailgaters. They all follow the '2 second rule.'

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2235

Following too close is extremely dangerous. As professional drivers we are taought to use a 4 second rule. Learn to use your eyes properly, fix your eyes on the horizon; this will not only allow you to see trouble before you get there, but it will automatically center you and your car in the middle of the lane. Let tailgaters go by...DO NOT SLAM ON YOUR BRAKES, just let them by.

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2028

I spent five years driving instructing. Although I could out-drive any other person, those seriously stupid and arrogant people who tailgated my students when they were going the speed limit made every day of my five years living hell. Students who should not speed up would try to listen to the 'communication' of the tailgater and out of fear start missing other important things. It was like always having a person with a baseball bat swinging it right behind my head - all day long. And these fools behind us were just arrogant rich people who never knew any limits. They caused terror and continue to ruin life for us all. More people die from tailgaters than will ever die from terrorism or sharks. More fear, manipulation, and being bullied into also speeding, and subsequent mistakes, coersion, and horror/terror is caused by tailgaters than all the other crap we get all worked up about that really doesn't affect our lives on a daily basis for most of us. Tailgating is an expression of what is worst about our bullying intimidating thoughtless sociopathic society when it is at it's worst. What is sometimes best about it is that we try to move to the right and let people get to where they are trying to go, harried, and busy, even when they are clearly willing to threaten our lives and to put us in real danger just to get what they want. We are usually into minding our own business and understanding live and let live. I have a solution that should work for everyone...

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1625

A rule can be applied for maintaining safe distance between the vehicles - keep a sensor on the back of each vehicle and it should light up in red preferably on the back glass with the letters showing 'keep distance' or something like that...

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1494

I'm a cop seeing expert on roads and on freeways. I drive 20 mph over limit and I spot Helicopters, Planes, Black and White cop cars behind freeway exits, on bridges clocking speeds while the cop tells other cops to get him, Cop cars on the opposite side of the road face oncoming freeway traffic trying to blend in with the traffic with a gun, Cop cars on right far right side on the road, cops driving same direction you are, Cop cars driving in front of semis for faster moving cars like me. I spot them all......
I'm a professional freeway in/out driver I pass slow drivers as if there still. I think slow drivers should drink more energy drinks or something cause they are ssllooww... boost up there focus and drive time. I time all my lights I hit green lights all the way to my destination. SERIOUSLY I know where cameras are on lights I know know not to tailgate drivers cause it's pointless and you treat other people with respect so when coming up to a car I wait till there's safe distance to pass and make the move I usually see two head lights before making a complete pass. I stay usally a car behind someone. ALWAYS LOOK FAR UP... STUDY HOW TO COME ABOUT MAKING YOUR NEXT MOVE REMEMBER IN/OUT. Three lane highways never make a left/right turn with out making sure that both sides are clear on the side of you. See if your turning left/right there could be someone else turning the same time you do so bothe cars trying to merge in one lane, it's just not going to work. BE THE BIGGER MAN MAKE SURE YOUR A CAR PASSED THE GUY TO THE FAR SIDE BEFORE YOU TURN SO JUST IN CASE HE HAS THE SAME IDEA YOU WONT BOTH HIT EACH OTHER. FAST BUT SAFE IS HOW I PLAY!!!

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