AA and National Highways ask drivers to avoid tailgating and follow Highway Code’s two-second rule
Drivers are ‘dicing with disaster’ fears the AA, which claims a third of drivers are either ignoring or aren’t aware of the two-second distance rule.
Driving too close to the car in front – or tailgating – says the breakdown organisation, also carries more risk in winter when rear-end smashes routinely increase by 25% as motorists face more difficult road conditions.
AA research has found that 32% of motorists admit to either being unaware or often choose to ignore the rule, which says a two-second gap should be left between moving vehicles.
Those numbers are supported by Department for Transport statistics which calculate that a fifth – or 21% – of cars on the country’s roads are frequently driving too close to the vehicle in front.
The Highway Code tells drivers to allow at least a two-second gap between the car they're driving and the vehicle ahead on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced.
The gap should be wider as speeds increase – rising to 2.4 seconds or about 53 metres – when driving at 50mph and 3.1 seconds – or 96 metres – at 70mph. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads or where there is snow.
But playing ‘fast and loose’ with those rules could end in disaster in the months ahead warns Tim Rankin, managing director of AA Accident Assist.
He said: “We’re coming to the time of year where playing fast and loose with a safe distance from the vehicle in front is much more likely to end in disaster.
“And if you crash into the back of someone or hear a vehicle being hit further behind, we now know that there is more than a one in 10 chance that the impact will lead to a shunt down a line of cars.
“Applying the handbrake when stationary is the companion to following the two second rule. Both prevent needless damage and injury, particularly whiplash and worse for older and more fragile car occupants.”
In March last year National Highways launched its own campaign in an effort to get drivers to take note after driving too close to another vehicle becamse a factor in one in every eight crashes on England’s motorways and A-roads.
A trial last year of its new tailgating cameras on a stretch of the M1 also captured more than 60,000 incidents of tailgating in just one year, with 10,000 of those recorded as being repeat offenders.
The findings led to more than 2,000 warning letters being sent out highlighting the dangers.
To use the rule, motorists should allow the vehicle in front to pass a fixed object such as a lamppost or road sign then count to two seconds. If they reach two seconds before reaching the same reference marker they need to slow down and drop back.
Tailgating is a motoring offence and can lead to prosecution for driving without due care and attention.
Those caught can face a £100 fine and three points on their licence and in some cases more severe penalties or a court appearance.