Joined: Aug 02, 2006
Location: McLean, VA, USA
Sun Aug 20, 2006 11:31 am
Once I was chatting to my neighbor. Among other things, she mentioned, that when she attended defensive driving course, they were teaching about proper distance between cars at a stoplight. They taught to stop so, that you can fully see rear wheels of the car in front of you.
The reasoning under this was, that if your car gets hit in the back, it does not hit the car in front of it at that distance. Well, this does not sound very true for me. I have at least two problems with this approach. First, it is not uniform. Imagine, what distance you should keep if you drive, say, Silverado. And now imagine you drive Honda Civic. I would think we are talking about times, not percentage difference here.
Second, it is excessive. Even with Civic we are talking about something like 10 feet, if you sit properly. Did you say the bigger the better? There is a downside to the bigger – long line at the stoplight. Sometimes it does not matter, but pretty often it does, especially for turn lanes and for intersections like this:
This intersection I’m passing every day. Route 123, which is going west - east, is a major road here, and when stoplight at the arrow 1 turns green to let the pictured cars cross the major road, stoplight at the arrow 2 turns red. It allows only the cars, which are in between the lights, to cross the road. During rush hour one can spend 5 to 10 minutes here, waiting through several stoplight cycles.
Following this rule on such an intersection is a disaster to other drivers. And most of the drivers do understand, that by stopping at the big distance, they are wasting the space that could have been used by fellow drivers behind them to save a couple of minutes (duration of stoplight cycle) on the way home.
Agreed, you have to use common sense, in heavy traffic going slow speeds you can bunch up a bit. The old rule about "if you can see the bottom of the tires of the vehicle ahead" worked when cars had high, long hoods. These days vehicles are very aerodynamic with sloped hoods and windshields that provide excellent visibility. Following this old rule can put you right on the bumper of the vehicle in front of you in most cases.
At a minimum you should leave enough space to see a bit of pavement between you and the car in front. Could someone comfortably walk between your two vehicles? Here's a new rule of thumb that will help. Imagine that the vehicle stopped in front of you was to break down and you had to go around...are you far enough back to accomplish this without reversing and with enough confidence to enter the next lane of traffic fairly quickly?.
True, it won't necessarily keep you from being pushed into the vehicle in front but it will prevent crowding/upsetting other drivers and minimize damage if you're rear-ended.
I've taken quite a few driving and defensive driving courses and have managed to avoid many accidents in my 25 years of driving (10 yrs professionally) by applying different skills I've learned. Hopefully my expirience helps you as well.
I though you explained your point very well and wasn't really trying to re-visit your points but was just focusing on one aspect. I think the balancing all the considerations, risk assesment, consideration for others, traffic, intersection layout (which you covered very thoroughly), and basic guidlines of what you should try to achieve all go towards being a good driver.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, happy motoring!
Joined: Aug 02, 2006
Location: McLean, VA, USA
Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:20 am
Yes and no Trevor I think. Cause I am maintaining that people usually leave too big of a distance when they stop at the traffic light, and you are basically saying they need to leave even bigger distance.
May be it is that driving habits where you live are seriously different from where I live?
Imagine that the vehicle stopped in front of you was to break down and you had to go around...are you far enough back to accomplish this without reversing and with enough confidence to enter the next lane of traffic fairly quickly?[/b].
If you have enough distance in front of you that are able to weave out and move to another lane... you are being rude to everyone behind you. Move up a bit. There should be enough space that an imaginary couple holding hands could walk between you and the car in front... but no more space than that.
People who hog up buffer space in front of them are very rude to those behind them who are trying to possibly get into the turn lane, but cannot reach it due to buffer-space hogs in front of them.
I cannot stand when someone leaves a big gap at a atop light especially when they are chatting on the phone! It will take them up to 10 seconds before the move once it turns green! The stops signs only blink 14 times so you only have appr. 15 seconds to move through it. I do leave a space in between vehicles but not a large open space so that others will get peeved! You have very valid points and this rules makes completel sense.
Joined: Aug 02, 2006
Location: McLean, VA, USA
Sat Feb 20, 2010 9:03 am
That's exactly why I wrote this post Julianna! You girls are cheering me up a lot, cause after all those years I was already starting to think that I am alone or almost alone with sensible and reasonable approach to driving LOL.
i understand that there are not many of us manual shift drivers left out there today but we do still exist.
my biggest pet peeve is the motorist who cram themselves up the rear of my truck, especially when the stop light/sign is on a hill.
These motorists are just asking for me to roll back on them!
ultimately the distance a motorist should keep from the driver in front of them should be based on safety reasons not time issues.
missing a light is preferable to a potentially deadly or costly accident!
It is important, I would even go as far as to say very important, to maintain a considerable gap at stop lights, and any other stop on the road. The gap depends on the situation or, to put it more percisely, on where you are in the queue.
1.Stopping at the END of the traffic queue
Imagine cruising down the road at 40mph and reaching a queue of stopped vehicles at the traffic lights. You slow down and stop. But afterwards, another drivers pulls out, but because he didn't get nearly as much sleep as he should the night before, he hits your behind.
Could this collision be avoided? To answer this question we need to understand what made this collision possible, which is your presence at the very end of the queue. So, don't hold at the end of the queue in front, stop in front of your own queue!
By slowing down very early and very gently, cars behind you catch up with you while you are still moving. This way, you sort of "gather" them up to form a queue behind you and than reach a dead stop when protected from behind. This automatically protects you from being shounted from behind, and you obviously don't need to keep as much space in front at the stop.
However, what if there is no traffic behind you at the time you slow down and stop? There is still a chance that after stopping, you will be shounted from behind. In this situation, always aim to stop early, at least two full car lengths! This allows you to move forward an clear out those crucial few feet for the driver behind and also grants you the manueverability to swerve aside if you need to get out of the way alltogether. Always plan an escape route to the sides as well, even mounting a kerb is a good idea.
Always wait for at least two cars or one rig to pull over behind you and stop, before moving forward and behind the car ahead/stoplight/stop sign/crosswalk. Preferably wait for three cars to stop behind you, especially in slippery conditions or in areas of high speed. This is relevant whether you gather up the traffic behind you while moving, or whether you stop early and than move forward.
In theory, all cars should do this by slowind down early, and stopping in large gaps, and narrowing them down as more cars come up behind. Needless to say that this does not make the line longer or delays anyone, and might even help with brake wear and fuel consumption.
2. Waiting IN a traffic queue
Even after a long queue of cars stopped behind you safely, it's still a good idea to keep at least as much space as to be able to see a few good feet of tarmac in between yourself and the car ahead. This gap has a variety of advantages: Even for some rare accident, the whole line gets pushed forward by a rear-end collision, you still have some manuverability and the gap that will prevent you from being disludged unto the car ahead, leading to more damage to yourself and others.
The gap also allows for manuverabilty when the car ahead breaks down and you need to move get around it, when you get a problem that requires that you move off of the cariageway. The space is also important, should the car ahead roll backwards slightly (due to misuse of a manual transmission or some automatics, wheelspin down a slippery slope or what not) or should you mistakenly roll forward.
The open space allows for space for bikers and cyclists to manuever up through the traffic, or to clear a path for emergency vehicles (like an ambulance) or for another car as it merges, turns at a wide arch through your lane (as rigs and buses often do), or swerves slightly into your route from a near lane or from oncoming traffic.
It is true that the line gets longer, but the car are able to accelerate earlier when traffic gets moving again. Also, if the car behind you at the queue fails to stop out of the area of an intersection you have just crossed, you can help clear out a few feet to help him prevent gridlock. There are even collisions where cars involved get thrown at standing traffic. This gap can allow to manuever and avoid a disaster! There are many more advantages and possible situations which you often encounter daily in which this gap can prove beneficial.
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