Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Too close for comfort, safety

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMPaul Messam
Contributed A billboard cautioning against tailgating.
Contributed A car looms large in the rear view mirror.
Contributed A driver following a vehicle ahead closely.
Contributed Two motor vehicles a safe distance apart on the road.

Traffic congestion is common in Jamaica's cities and towns, challenging drivers in Kingston and urban St Andrew, Spanish Town, Montego Bay, May Pen and Mandeville, among other areas.

As various users share the road, accommodation to the limited space is required.

"In order to drive safely in the city, motorists should put space between themselves and the other road users," advised Kanute Hare, director of road safety in the Ministry of Transport and Works.

According to Hare, in any traffic environment, maintaining an adequate following distance has many advantages.

"The driver will be able to see well down the road ahead, will have time to adjust to traffic, and he or she can stop safely if the vehicle ahead stops suddenly," he added.

A practical way to measure a safe following distance is to count the seconds as you drive. A following distance of two seconds is considered safe for normal driving conditions. It can be worked out while on the move.

Step 1: Choose a fixed checkpoint further down the road, such as a pavement marking.

Step 2: When the back bumper of the motor vehicle ahead passes the checkpoint, start counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two (each one is a second) and so on.

Step 3: If your car's front bumper reaches the checkpoint in less than two seconds, increase the distance between you and the other vehicle.

Step 4: Now check the vehicle again.

The two-second rule (or technique) works at all speeds under normal conditions. As your speed increases, so does the distance your car travels in two seconds. Therefore, when you count, your following distance will be greater at higher speeds.

However, Carol Nangle, who has over 30 years' experience in the motoring world, cautions, "do not confuse this two-second distance with the total stopping distance you need to protect yourself from hitting a stationary object."

It is important to note that although the two second rule or technique works under normal conditions, the driver should increase the distance to three or more seconds under adverse conditions, or if more time is needed to react. These situations include:

1. When the driver behind you is tailgating you, that is, following too closely.

2. When the car ahead of you is tailgating.

3. When you are heading


4. When you are pulling a heavy load or trailer.

5. When you are following a motorcycle, a large truck or a slow-moving vehicle.

6. When you are just learning to drive. At that time, your reaction may be slow in complex situations.

7. When traction is poor.