The answer is ‘breaks the two-second rule’, which is something that a leading road safety organisation called GEM Motoring Assist is keen to promote at the moment because they’re concerned that a large chunk of drivers aren’t aware of the rule.
Regular readers of The Root will know how much Carrot Insurance cares about road safety, so we thought it would be helpful to our young and newly-qualified driver customers if we recapped what it’s all about.
The ‘2-second rule’ is actually found in the Highway Code under Rule 126 on stopping distances, which says: “Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear. You should 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.”
Always keeping at least two seconds from the vehicle in front will provide a distance of one car length per 5mph, whatever speed you drive. So if you’re driving at 70mph on a motorway and are 2 seconds behind the car in front, that’s 14 car lengths of stopping distance available in case you need to brake hard.
The Highway Code says that an average car requires at least 96 metres to come to a stop if it’s driving at this speed and any distractions will seriously compromise the stopping distance, so it’s important to remain alert at what vehicles around you, particularly in front, are doing.
How do you know if you’re two seconds behind the vehicle in front? Wait until its rear bumper is in line with a fixed object such as a lamppost, a sign or a motorway bridge, and immediately count to 2 seconds. If your own car reaches the same fixed object before the 2 seconds are up, you’re following the vehicle in front too closely.
When roads are wet, drivers should really make it a 4-second rule, going all the way to 10 seconds in icy conditions, to minimise the chance of a serious collision if sudden braking is required.
The Association of British Drivers (ABD) also suggests the following related driving tips to reduce the chance of your car being rear-ended:
- If you need to suddenly brake, try to warn drivers behind you by using your hazard lights, if and when it’s safe for you to do so
- Try not to closely join the back of a traffic queue if you’d end up positioned on a blind bend. It’s ok to hang back a reasonable distance, to make your car more visible and keep you safer
- Similarly, it’s a good idea to leave a car’s gap between you and the vehicle in front if you encounter a sudden motorway queue, giving you the chance to possibly move across into another lane if the vehicle approaching behind you doesn’t seem to have noticed the queue
- When you stop at somewhere a bit daunting like a railway level crossing or at the junction of a very busy road, it’s best to use your handbrake instead of just holding your car with the brake pedal, just in case you’re shunted from behind.
A recent survey found that 95% of drivers sometimes get concerned about being tailgated, which is the cause of 14% of road casualties. On a more positive note, maintaining a gap of at least 2 seconds between you and the vehicle in front can quite often increase your car’s efficiency so that journeys will cost you less in fuel, and it can even make roads less congested.
If you’re the parent, guardian or other relative of a young, newly-qualified driver insured by us and have benefitted from the driving tips and safety advice we regularly share on The Root, we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook