Avoiding rear-end collisions
Is there a football fan in North America who doesn’t love a tailgate party? What could be better than a barbecue and a few cold beverages in the parking lot with your friends before the big game? But there’s another kind of tailgating event you definitely don’t want any part of: a rear-end collision.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, rear-end collisions are the most frequent kind of highway accident. In 2006, there were 1.8 million of them, and that was 29 percent of all injury crashes in the country that year.
Researchers say a contributing factor is a limit to human perception. A study at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that drivers generally are not able to detect when a car in front of them is going slower than they are unless the difference in speed is at least eight to 10 miles an hour. And “if people can’t detect that the car in front of them is going slower, you’re going to run into it,” said Gregory Corso, a professor of psychology at the school.
On the highway, tailgating means following the car ahead of you too closely. In good weather, a rule of thumb is that you’re tailgating if you reach a point in less than two seconds after the vehicle ahead of you passed it (count, “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand”). At 40 miles an hour (64 km/h), that means if you’re less than 58 feet (18 meters) behind the next vehicle, or about four car lengths, you’re tailgating, and at 65 (104 km/h) miles per you need to be 95 feet (29 meters) behind, or more than six car lengths, to avoid tailgating.
To avoid causing a rear-end collision, remember to:
• Stay alert and pay strict attention to the flow of traffic at all times.
• In dry weather, stay at least two seconds behind the next vehicle, and four to eight seconds behind on wet, snowy or icy surfaces.
• Ease off the gas pedal whenever you notice that you’re starting to catch up to the vehicle ahead of you.
• Use the “ready brake” technique whenever you see brake lights ahead of you: immediately move your foot off the gas pedal to the brake pedal and be prepared to apply pressure as necessary to slow down.
• As much as possible, look several vehicles ahead of you to check for emerging traffic problems that could cause sudden braking.
• If a vehicle enters the safety space between you and the next car, slow down until you re-create the right amount of space again.
To avoid becoming a victim of auto body damage:
• Never follow another vehicle so closely that you have to slam on your brakes to avoid an auto body collision. That is to say – don’t tailgate!
• Check your rear-view mirror every few seconds to spot any vehicles that may be tailgating you.
• If another driver is too close behind you, take your foot off the gas, turn on your right turn signal, use your brakes and, as soon as it’s safe, pull into the right lane or onto the road shoulder to let the driver pass.