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For the past few weeks my colleagues and I have been addressing questions clients often ask. Most of our articles relate to questions have about lawsuits and the claims process. One other question I get a lot, though, has to do with vehicle safety. I get the question from clients, friends, and people I meet. The question is: “What can I do to avoid auto accidents?”

It’s a deceptively tough question. Thick books have been written on the topic. Moreover, in my practice I typically encounter people who were involved in accidents rather than those who manage to successfully avoid accidents altogether. When asked about how to avoid accidents, therefore, I usually respond by discussing some of the most common factors contributing to vehicular accidents and injuries.

Without question, following too closely is one of the most frequent causes of accidents. Some studies suggest that following too closely is a contributing factor in forty percent of all traffic accidents. In my office we speak to people every day who were hurt in accidents caused by drivers following too closely.

The authors of a 2006 study defined following too closely as “situations in which one vehicle is following another vehicle so closely that even if the following driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead he/she could not avoid a collision in the circumstance when the driver in front brakes suddenly." Dingus, T.A., Klauer, S.A., Neale, V.L., Petersen, A., Lee, S.E., and Sudweeks, J., (2006). 100-car naturalistic driving study. Phase 2: Results of the 100-car field experiment.- Interim rept. August 2001 to March 2005. Report No. DOT/HS/810-593. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, D.C.

Many safe driving authorities recommend maintaining a minimum 3-second following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle on the road ahead of you. This rule of thumb is for passenger cars and light trucks and SUVs traveling in ideal conditions. When conditions are not ideal a greater distance is necessary.

It’s easy to determine if you are maintaining a 3-second following distance. When the rear end of the vehicle in front of you passes a sign or other stationary object, count how long it takes for the front of your vehicle to reach the same object.

Unfortunately, as a driver you have less control over the distance between your vehicle and vehicle following you. There are, however, some measures you can take when the vehicle behind you is uncomfortably close.

You should increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. This will give you — and by extension the driver behind you — more time to respond to traffic situations that occur ahead of you.

You should also find a way to let the vehicle behind you pass. If there is more than one lane in your direction, change lanes. If you’re on a two lane road, slow down in a passing zone so that the vehicle behind you can easily pass. It may not seem fair to “reward” a tailgater. Remember, however, that the goal is to avoid being in an accident. Letting an aggressive driver get by is a small price to pay to avoid being injured or killed in a traffic accident!

This is a continuation of our series on commonly asked questions that clients ask when involved in a personal injury claim. Join Devon Glass, Wayne Parsons, Mike Bryant, Pierce Egerton, Rick Shapiro, Steve Lombardi and me for a continued discussion about questions clients often ask. The titles so far are:

What would a caveman bring to meet with the lawyer?, Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 11:00 AM

Solving Legal Problems, Being a Client, Back to the Basics, Steve Lombardi , September 15, 2009 8:48 AM

Car Accident Injury Client: What Makes the Case Good or Bad? (The Collision & Medical Care) , Rick Shapiro September 16, 2009 9:38 AM

Being a Client: More Tips To Help Improve Your Case If You’ve Been In An Car Accident , Devon Glass , September 17, 2009 8:39 AM

Presumed Guilty: How to Avoid Having Insult Added to Injury When You’ve Been Hurt in a Car Crash, Pierce Egerton , September 18, 2009 4:28 PM

What To Do After An Accident When The Adjuster Is There First, Mike Bryant, September 19, 2009 6:26 PM

What Questions Is The Lawyer Going To Ask Me At The Initial Interview For My Injury Or Death Case?, Wayne Parsons , 20 September 2009 12:01

What makes a case good or bad?, Steve Lombardi, 21 September 2009 12:57 PM

What To Do After An Accident When The Adjuster Has A Tape Recorder, Mike Bryant , September 23, 2009 10:01 PM

Do I have a good or a bad case?, Devon Glass, September 24, 2009

What are interrogatories and how do I answer them?, Steve Lombardi, September 29, 2009

Interrogatories: A Written Deposition , Devon Glass, September 30, 2009

How Do You Value Your Case? Mike Bryant October 03, 2009 9:29 AM

Demystifying Injury Litigation for Clients: What Are Interrogatories?, Rick Shapiro ,October 3, 2009

Do only dishonest people refuse to give a recorded statement? Steve Lombardi | October 06, 2009 10:47 AM

How Does An Injured Person Describe Their Injury To Doctors, Lawyers and Their Family?(2); Wayne Parsons | October 22, 2009 3:45 AM

I was in an automobile accident. What should I do? Ten Tips For Hawaii Drivers, Wayne Parsons on September 14, 2009 – 3:59 AM EST


  1. Pierce this is really interesting. I have never seen this analysis and I agree that following too close is at the heart of most of the thousands of car crashes I have seen come into my office over the years. I applaud you for talking about preventing automobile accidents.

  2. Gravatar for Mike Bryant

    This is the kind of information that people get here at the Injuryboard, very good and helpful information that keeps them from ever needing any of us.

  3. Gravatar for Steven Aldrich

    In addition to maintaining the right following distance (as an aside, my son helps count the seconds between us and the car in front), another way to improve driving safety is to improve your brain performance. There are three main capabilities that lead to safe driving – body, vision, and mind. Starting in our 30's our brain performance slows. That is of concern because of the strong link established in the medical and science literature between safe driving and cognitive ability. The good news is that recent studies show that brain performance can be improved at any age with the right mental exercises (just like physical fitness improves the body).

    I am the CEO of Posit Science and we recently introduced DriveSharp, a brain fitness software program recommended by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. It contains proven technology to help people be safer behind the wheel by training the brain to think quicker and react faster. For more information and a free online demo go to

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