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:

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.

Time-lapse method

One car passes a landmark, with another car following behind at a safe distance

Cars using the time-lapse method

You can use the time-lapse method to keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front.

  1. 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.
  2. When the rear of the vehicle ahead passes the object, count ‘1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2’ (this takes about 2 seconds).
  3. 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.