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Today’s lesson, part 2 of 2, explains how to teach your teen driver proper following distances.
Following distance (Part 2)
Back when we were learning how to drive, this was how we gauged safe following distance: Leave approximately one care length for each 10 miles per hour you were driving. For example, 30 mph equaled three car lengths; 60 mph equaled six car lengths.
Now, we talk about the 3-second rule as the best way to determine how closely we should follow the vehicle in front of us.
Teach your teen the right way to figure it out:
- Start counting when the car ahead passes a fixed object, such as a telephone pole, a billboard or any fixed object. Count “one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three” to measure three seconds. If you car reaches the fixed object before you stop counting, you’re following too closely. Ease off the accelerator a bit to widen the gap. Then check your following distance again.
- Significantly increase following distance in bad weather. This will allow you more reaction time.
- If you are being tailgated, use a 5- or 6-second following distance and slow down. This will encourage the bad driver who’s tailgating to pass you.
- If you’re hauling a boat, trailer or camper, teach your teen to add 1 second to your following distance for every 10 feet of additional length. The added weight of the trailer requires a longer stopping distance for your vehicle.
Teens really struggle gauging proper following distance when they first start driving. In fact, it’s one of the reasons their crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers. Following distance isn’t something we as parents really think about teaching when we start riding shotgun with our teens. But we can’t overlook it. No one wants their teen to be that bad driver who’s tailgating. That’s just an accident waiting to happen.
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