Safe following distances
You must drive a safe distance behind a vehicle travelling in front of you. Following another vehicle too closely is known as tailgating. If you tailgate you may not be able to safely stop in time to avoid a collision.
Safe following distances vary depending on:
- your speed
- the driving conditions
- the type of vehicle you’re driving.
What is a safe following distance?
In most cases, a safe following distance is much longer than a car length.
You should drive at least 2 seconds behind the vehicle in front during ideal conditions.
Add 1 second extra for each 3m of trailer length—when driving a vehicle towing a trailer or caravan.
Remember to also:
- double your following distance in poor conditions
- increase following distances if you're driving a heavy vehicle.
Cars using the time-lapse method
You can use the time-lapse method to keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front.
- Pick a mark on the road or an object close to the left-hand side of the road, such as a power or light pole.
- When the rear of the vehicle ahead passes the object, count ‘1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2’ (this takes about 2 seconds).
- If the front of your vehicle passes the object before you finish counting, you are too close, so drop back.
Video of safe following distances
Watch the video to get a better understanding of safe following distances.