Avoid Tailgating Collisions By Adapting The Four-Second Rule

tailgating carsIt’s that time of year when slick roads and low visibility become a hazard for Portland drivers. When combined with a statewide tendency for tailgating, or following another vehicle too closely, it’s a recipe for collision.

‘Tis the season for car accident claims and settlements.

Top reasons not to tailgate include:

  • It’s against the law. Oregon law states: “A person is following too closely if they drive a motor vehicle so as to follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon, and condition of, the highway.”
  • It puts other drivers on the defensive. Tailgating is considered an aggressive driving behavior and can easily be mistaken for road rage.
  • It’s dangerous. Most rear-end collisions are caused by one vehicle following another too closely.
  • You can be held liable in an accident. In a rear-end collision in which tailgating is involved, the tailgating driver will almost always be held at fault.

Driving safety experts have promoted various ways of determining a safe following distance over the years, but it’s not an exact science because the safe distance changes at different speeds. These days, Oregon law enforcement officials recommend following the four-second rule, which means selecting a fixed object on the road ahead, such as a tree or sign. Once the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count to four: “One one-thousand, two one-thousand…” If you reach the object before you’re done counting, you’re following too closely.

It’s a handy rule — however, it only holds true in good weather. When weather or visibility is bad, you’ll need to increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you in order to follow the letter of the law.

In inclement weather (light rain, fog or snow), heavy traffic or when driving at night: Double the four-second rule to eight seconds.

In poor weather (heavy rain, fog or snow): Triple the four-second rule to 12 seconds.

By maintaining a safe following distance at all times, you can avoid causing a collision (and being contacted by another driver’s personal injury lawyer).

If someone is tailgating you, the best response is to switch to another lane or turn off the road and let the tailgating vehicle pass. If you are rear-ended by a tailgating driver, write down as much information as possible, and call the police  (ask a witness to call for you, if possible).

[photo: MSVG]