Warning! This article could offend parents!
What is the #1 bad driving habit parents unknowingly pass on to their kids? Well, most parents use a seat belt and make their kids wear them too. Also turn signals could probably be used a little better as well as smoother lane changes. And not all parents drive in a rush because they left the house late. Despite many obvious bad habits parents can admit to, most parents and drivers do 1 major bad habit they might not even realize they're doing...
Tailgaiting is the cause of so many accidents it's even an Idaho driving law. [You won't find the word "tailgaiting" - Idaho driving laws call it "following too closely"] I usually see 90% of the people on the road tailgaiting. This is not because they are dumb. I believe most people tailgait because they simply don't realize it. Driversed.com and other driving sources tell you how to calculate your following distance.
1. Spot a landmark (sign, mailbox, etc.) on the right side of the road that the vehicle in front of you will soon pass.
2. When that vehicle passes it, start counting.
3. Stop counting when you reach the same landmark. This is your "seconds of following distance".
Early driver education programs taught 2 seconds of following distance. This was gradually seen as incredibly inadequate so many now teach 3 seconds. Some teach 4 seconds. The minimum following distance you should have is 4 seconds. 5+ seconds is even better.
Try to look at following distance as equal to Reaction Time. If you have 4 seconds of following distance than if the vehicle in front of you hits an object and stops abruptly you'll have 4 seconds to hit the brake, swerve, or hit the brake and swerve. Sounds good right? But there is a big problem with this...
You are human and like to look at things.
There is a very good chance that when the vehicle in front of you stops you will be distracted probably looking somewhere you shouldn't. But distraction is not just texting. Distraction can be thinking very seriously about something. Distraction can be looking in your rear view mirror too long or too often (this is another topic for later). If you look out the window for 1 second right when the vehicle in front of you hits the brakes - you will not have 4 seconds of reaction time - you will have 3 seconds. So if you drive with 2 seconds of following distance and your distracted by 1 second, you will have 1 second of reaction time.
Well there's another problem. It can take .5 to 1.5 seconds to see, think, at react to the problem ahead. Experts, including myself, including Thinking Time in Reaction Time. Thinking time is the time it takes for you to realize there is problem. Reaction Time is the time it takes for you to take your foot off the gas pedal, move it to the brake, and hit the brake. At 40 MPH a vehicle travels at almost 60 feet per second! Basically if you are travelling at 40 MPH and have 2 seconds of following distance, and you are distracted by 1 second - you WILL hit the car in front of you if they stop suddenly and you are 60 feet or less behind them and you have an average of 1 second of Thinking Time. In plain English...by the time you acknowledge a problem it's too late. This is number one cause of 3 or more vehicles "piling up" on the freeway.
To summarize most parents do not have enough following distance and probably don't know it. And another big problem is how hard it is break this habit and increase your distance. It sounds easy. But you will soon find increasing your following distance is harder than it sounds. But you must increase your following distance or your student will tailgait just like you because they are also accustomed to the distance.
Tailgaiting creates 3 major problems...
1. It reduces the space needed for acknowledging a problem and hitting the brake (basically it reduced time to make the right decision).
2. Also when you tailgait you must stare at the car in front of you - preventing you from seeing other potential problems (even potential problems for other vehicles around you). Some people may say well "I'm paying attention to the guy in front of me nothing to worry about". I guarantee within the next 10 seconds those attentive drivers will take their eyes of that car. We are human and like to look at things. Again this can include looking out the window, looking at the radio, looking at your phone, or looking in your rear view mirror or side mirrors. You could have 20 seconds of following distance but if you look away for 19 seconds you only have 1 second to notice a problem in front of you.
3. Tailgaiting distracts the driver in front of you. So in addition to less space - you are distracting the driver in front of you drastically increasing the chance of that driver hitting the brakes hard (because they are looking in their rear view mirror too much - can you blame them?)
Consequences of Tailgaiting...
Tailgaiting is the #1 cause of the #1 collision - the rear end collision. The rear end collision might not cause any bodily injury or vehicle damage. Or the rear end collision could create incredibly debilitating life-altering injuries. Some drivers hit the brake hard and swerve. This could cause even more problems such as swerving into oncoming traffic, hitting a vehicle next to you, swerving into a pedestrian or bicyclist, or maybe swerving off a cliff or into a river. And if your saying "well, I don't see too many rear end collisions" - there actually are many rear end collisions every day. Chances are your not actively looking. If you scan good (and aren't staring at the car in front of you because your tailgaiting) you'll notice 2 cars in a parking lot or side street with both drivers talking to each other and looking at their bumpers. Why no cops? Many people who get rear ended don't call the police even though they should.
Other benefits of following distance...
By having more space you will be creating a gap for someone to do a lane change safer. And you might be creating a nice swerve option area for someone else who might get in trouble. So if a car in the other lane runs the risk of rear ending another car - they might instead choose to swerve. And with your extra space you'll be able to see and anticipate the swerve in advance (they might swerve anyways even if there is no gap)
What to do....
1. Listen to your kids if they tell you your tailgaiting.
2. Calculate your distance using the above method. You do it - not your kids.
3. Increase your following distance to a minimum of 4 seconds.
4. Do it with every vehicle - you will gradually it accustomed to the extra distance.
DO NOT INCREASE YOUR DISTANCE AS AN EXCUSE TO START TEXTING AND DRIVING