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The Magic Bubble: Maintaining Safe Distance

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Online

A space cushion is the empty space that separates your car from any potential hazards: other moving cars, parked cars, trees, road barriers, etc. This empty space gives you time to see, react to, and avoid any problem that may arise on the road around you. You need to maintain a space cushion in front of, behind, and on both sides of your car.


Use the three second rule: when the car ahead of you passes a certain marker, begin to count—”one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” You should finish saying this before your car passes the marker. If not, then you need to slow down a bit to increase your following distance.

When you are tired or stressed, you’ll need more time to react. In bad weather, it will take longer for your vehicle to come to a stop (particularly if it icy.) In these situations, you should add time to your following distance.

It’s particularly important to maintain the appropriate following distance in heavy traffic, which can slow down or stop suddenly for no apparent reason. It’s also important to maintain a large following distance behind trucks, which can limit your field of vision, and motorcycles, which may be able to stop more quickly than you can.

You also need to maintain a front safety cushion when stopped at a light or stop sign, or in traffic. First, remember that the car in front of you may have manual, rather than automatic transmission; as a result, the car may roll slightly when starting, especially if you are an incline. Second, you need to give yourself enough space to pull out from behind the vehicle in front of you should the car stall or otherwise fail to start.


There are a few steps you can take to diffuse potential tailgating hazards.

·         Don’t get angry.

·         Don’t try to “teach them a lesson” by braking suddenly.

·         Increase your following distance by one or two seconds.

·         Either move to a right-hand lane (if possible) to allow the tailgater to pass or slow down so that he or she can pass you safely.


Always make sure there is free space on both sides of your car. First, drive in the center of the lane at all times. When approaching a narrow gap, slow down until you’ve made sure that there’s enough space for you to pass. Then, proceed slowly. Be aware of those you share the road with, particularly cyclists and pedestrians. Give cyclists a wide berth when passing.


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