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Every confident driver on the road believes that they’re a better driver than everyone around. You may be able to identify these drivers by the way they’re tailgating or by the way they’re lane switching at high speeds. To be a safe driver, you have to manage the road space around your vehicle. This space is known as your vehicle’s space cushion. Maintaining safe distances between your vehicle and others on the road is crucial to preventing car crashes.

Whether you are driving down an open country road or you are stuck in rush-hour congestion, you should always maintain a three-second following distance to the vehicle in front of you. This buffer area will allow you to react appropriately in the event of an emergency. You will be able to use your vehicle’s safety cushion in order to maneuver your vehicle away from potential harm. 

How to create a space cushion when you are driving

Identifying your space cushion is fairly simple and only takes a few seconds. First, while driving identify a stationary object such as a tree or lamp post. Once choosing your focus point watch as the car ahead of you passes that point, begin counting to three. It is best to count slowly, or in what grade-schoolers call Mississippi seconds. If it takes three Mississippi seconds to reach that fixed point, you are traveling at a safe following distance. 

Your space cushion is not limited to the front of your vehicle, you must also think about the sides and rear end of your vehicle. Equally, it is important to be aware of your blindspots and whether you are traveling in the blind spot of other vehicles. For example, if your vehicle is near parallel to other vehicles’ rear tires, they cannot see you. It is dangerous to travel in blind spots and may put you at an increased risk of being involved in a collision. 

You are not responsible for creating your back-end space cushion, the driver behind you is. Still, you should always be cautious of how closely someone is following you from behind. If you believe the vehicle behind you is tailgating you, never slam on your breaks to give a warning this may cause road rage. In fact, that maneuver can be very dangerous for everyone involved and could even create an obstacle for you should it result in a crash. To avoid this situation you can slowly let off the gas and allow the car to pass you, or if possible, switch lanes so you can once again create a safe space cushion for yourself. 

In addition to staying visible and out of blindspots, driving with headlights can also increase your visibility. Studies around the world show that using headlights during day time can decrease your risk of a daytime collision from between 5% to 10%. 

Inclement weather

Inclement weather such as rain, snow, and fog can greatly decrease the driver’s visibility. When the weather is poor, it is important to take visibility and road conditions into consideration. Precipitation on the ground may make roads sleek and cause problems while braking. It is important to give yourself adequate stopping time. 

It is recommended that you keep the following distance of either four or five seconds during inclement weather. This will allow more time to react and maneuver your vehicle properly and safely. After all, you wouldn’t want to find yourself a part of a rear-end collision. 

How do space cushions help with reaction times

Reaction time refers to the time that elapses between recognition of hazard on the roadway and how long it takes to either turn or apply the brakes. Everyone has a natural reaction times that vary. You should never assume other drivers on the roadway have a quick reaction time. If you are driving 3-5 seconds behind the car ahead of you, this cushion allows you to see, process and react to the danger ahead. 

There are many contributing factors to someone’s natural reaction time such as age, health, and vision. Age is the most common factor in the speed of a person’s reaction. As we age, our reaction times slow because of a decline in physical and cognitive functions. 

Distracted driving decreases reaction time

Distracted driving contributes to as many as 20% of all car accidents. As technology advances, drivers have more distractions at the palm of their hand. Despite 48 states having a ban on texting while driving, it remains one of the most common forms of distracted driving. Missouri and Montana are the only states that do not have laws against texting and driving.  

Drivers that are texting while driving are more likely to swerve into another lane. Texting and driving could more than double reaction time, with a longer reaction time drivers are less likely to be able to respond to road hazards. This results in drivers more increasing their chances of being involved in an accident. 

On average, without distractions, reaction time is about 2 seconds. Distractions can greatly increase this reaction time. For example, even if a driver is using hands-free technology to use a voice-activated entertainment system it can take up to 27 seconds for a driver to regain full alertness. 

This is especially dangerous while traveling at fast speeds. This increases the likelihood of being involved in a crash that causes life-threatening injuries. 

Space cushions at stops or in traffic

When stopped at a light, stop sign or simply creeping along in traffic, it is important that you leave at least one to two car’s length in front of you. As a personal injury law firm, many of our clients come to us with serious injuries after being involved in a pile-up. The best way to prevent a multi-vehicle crash is by leaving a large enough gap between you and the vehicle in front of you. This protects the person in front of you and ultimately protects you from causing too damage to your car and reduces injuries.

Leaving a space cushion at a stop or in heavy traffic doesn’t always work. Some motorists may think that this is an opening for them to cut in front of you. However, don’t let road rage take over. Take a deep breath and re-create the distance that you’re comfortable with.

What are common injuries from following too closely?

Following too closely is one of the most common reasons for car crashes. In most cases, responding officers will consider the motorist who causes a crash in the following situations is responsible for the crash:

  • Hitting a vehicle from behind 
  • Jumping into a lane prematurely
  • Drifting into the next lane 

These situations can lead to devastating injuries. Whiplash is a neck injury that is the most common injury resulting from a rear-end collision. Neck injuries can lead to pain, decreased motion and tightness in the neck. However, car crashes often lead to other serious injuries. 

In addition to whiplash, some of the most common injuries that occur from a failure to create a space cushion include the following: 

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Concussions
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Fractures
  • Back injuries
  • Hip damage and injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Bruising

Rear ends and sideswipes are difficult to avoid because you cannot predict the actions of other drivers on the road. In fact, other drivers may not have the knowledge about creating space cushions or they may simply believe their reaction times are flawless.

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

While the 3-5 second rule is the recommended distance, there is no safe following distances. Safe distances depend on the road conditions, such as the weather, time of day or the quality of their brakes.  After being injured in a car accident you may wonder how you will pay for medical bills or recover your lost wages? Are you questioning how the legal process works or where to start? These are questions that our Board Certified Car Accident Lawyers can answer for you.

At a time when you’re vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead. At The Carlson Law Firm, we can provide a level of representation that has been given recognition with awards and accolades that can be used to your advantage. Contact us for a free evaluation. We care, we can help.

The Carlson Law Firm has car crash attorneys in locations across the state.

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