What is the 3-second driving rule and why follow it?

Whether you are a longtime driver or a novice, understanding the rules of the road is essential to keeping yourself and others safe. This is especially true now, in the age of distractions.

The National Safety Council recommends using the 3-second rule to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This simple rule could mean the difference between preventing an accident and getting into one.

How to use the 3-second rule

To use the 3-second rule, follow these steps:

  • Pick a marker on the road – it can be a mile marker, overhead sign, tree, etc.
  • Watch as the vehicle ahead passes the marker
  • Then count how long it takes for you to pass the marker (“1- 1,000, 2-1,000, 3-1,000”)

If you counted less than 3-seconds, you need to create more space behind the vehicle in front of you.

More than 3 seconds when road conditions are bad

Rain, snow, hills, curvy roads, and poor visibility can impact a driver’s reaction time. That’s why it is crucial to leave even more distance between yourself and the car ahead when road conditions are not perfect.

By putting more space between yourself and the vehicle ahead, you are providing a safe traveling distance for yourself and the car ahead of you.

Also, the car in front of you might skid, swerve, brake fast, or spin out of control because of bad conditions. If that happens, you will need time to react quickly. Whether that is moving safely to another lane, braking, or coming to a complete stop, you will need more than 3 seconds to maneuver out of harm’s way.

If you are driving a heavier vehicle like a trailer, pickup truck, or minivan, you will need to increase your distance to account for the time it will take your vehicle to react.

How long does it take for a semi to stop?

For trucks and buses, the amount of stopping time and distance is much greater than a standard car. Semis and buses are heavy, wide, and long. If they don’t follow at a safe distance, it can result in a catastrophic accident, causing extensive damage and even death.

If a semi is traveling 65 mph with good road conditions, it will need 200 yards to come to a complete stop.

Whether you’re a car or semi stuck in traffic or traveling down the highway, remember your life and safety are in your hands, and it only takes a few seconds for an accident to occur. Follow safe distancing rules and adjust when conditions are not ideal.

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