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What Is the Safe Distance Between Cars While Driving?

Posted in Car Accidents

In New Mexico, one of the most common causes of automotive accidents is a driver following another vehicle too closely, resulting in a rear-end collision. All drivers must maintain a safe distance from the vehicles in front of them so that they have enough time to react if a driver comes to a sudden stop. Rear-end collisions are caused by a number of variables, but failing to keep a safe distance between vehicles is the most common.

What Is the Rule of Thumb for Safe Driving Distances?

Maintaining a safe driving or following distance is important for preventing car accidents. Without leaving enough space, a driver cannot brake effectively without hitting the next vehicle in line. This increases the odds of a rear-end collision. All drivers learn safe following distances when studying to receive their learner’s permits and driver’s licenses.

When driving in New Mexico under normal weather and environmental conditions, the general rule is to maintain three seconds of following distance between two vehicles. This means counting to three seconds when passing between stationary points on the side of the road. For example, if the first driver passes a tree, the second driver should count three full seconds before passing the same tree. The three-second rule creates enough distance for the second car to come to a complete stop before hitting the first.

Increase Your Following Distance in Dangerous Circumstances

There are some instances when the general safe distance rule between two vehicles should be increased to ensure the safety of both drivers. The rule applied during dangerous circumstances is at least four full seconds of following time. Dangerous circumstances in Albuquerque can include:

    Inclement weather (e.g., fog or rain that may disrupt a driver’s vision)
    Driving behind an 18-wheeler or another large vehicle
    Driving behind a truck that is carrying an oversized load
    A driver who seems inebriated or who is driving recklessly

In these scenarios, drivers should increase their following distances from three seconds to at least four seconds to decrease the risk of a car accident. A driver should use his or her own discretion to determine if the circumstances warrant a greater following distance.

Why Are Safe Following Distances Important?

Should the driver in front of you suddenly slam on the brakes, it is your responsibility to have enough room and time to also hit the brakes before causing a collision. This is still your responsibility even in bad weather, such as on wet or icy roads. This is why it is important to follow the three-second or four-second rule while driving. Maintaining a safe and reasonable following distance can help keep you, your passengers and the people in the other vehicle safe and free from serious injuries.

Who Is Responsible for an Accident Caused by Following Too Closely?

New Mexico is a fault state, meaning that the driver or party who caused the car accident is liable (financially responsible) for the victim’s medical bills and property damage. In a case of a rear-end collision or similar crash in New Mexico, the driver of the following vehicle is typically found to be at fault. There is a presumption that the second vehicle was too close to the first, and that this caused the wreck.

However, the other driver – the leading driver – may be found liable for this type of crash if he or she contributed to the accident through an act of negligence. For example, if the driver did not have working brake lights at the time of the accident or purposely slammed on the brakes to cause a crash (brake-checking). If the leading driver changed lanes too closely to the second, this could also cause a rear-end collision that is not the fault of the second driver.

Accidents involving a driver who was tailgating, following too closely or brake-checking can be complicated. If you get into this type of car accident and are injured, contact a car accident lawyer in Albuquerque for assistance with the claims process.