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Florida Driver Handbook: Minimum Safe Following Distances

Study for your upcoming driver's license test or learner's permit exam with the Florida Driver Handbook.

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Florida Driver Handbook: Minimum Safe Following Distances

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Table of Contents

5. Driving Safety

You must always share the road with other roadway users. The more distance between your vehicle and other roadway users, the more time you have to react. This space is a large space cushion designed for your protection. Always maintain a safe space cushion around your vehicle. Rear-end crashes are very common at intersections. Drivers following too closely, and then being unable to stop before hitting the vehicle ahead when it stops too quickly causes these types of crashes. Keep a minimum following distance of three to four seconds with an additional second for any unusual weather or traffic conditions.

To determine your following distance:

  • Watch when the rear of the vehicle ahead passes a sign, pole or any other stationary point.
  • Count the seconds it takes you to reach the same sign, pole, or stationary point (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two).
  • You are following too closely if you pass the stationary point before one-thousand-two.
  • Reduce speed and then count again at another stationary point to check the new following interval. Repeat until you are following no closer than "three-seconds."
  • After practicing, guess how many seconds away you are from an object and then count the seconds it takes to reach the object to see how accurate you are.
3-4 Second Minimum Following Distance

There are certain situations where you would need more space in front of your vehicle. In the following situations, you may need more than a three-second following interval to be safe due to high-risk behavior. Add more space in front of your vehicle and increase your following interval in the following situations:

  • You need more distance to stop a vehicle on slippery roads, therefore, leave more space in front of your vehicle. If the vehicle ahead suddenly stops, your vehicle will need the extra distance to stop safely.
  • Slow down to allow space in front of your vehicle when the vehicle behind wants to pass. Slowing also will allow the pass to be completed in less time.
  • Keep more space in front of your vehicle, when following motorcycles. Motorcycles are different sizes and have different braking capabilities than other motor vehicles. If the motorcycle should fall, your vehicle needs extra stopping or steering distance to avoid the rider. The chances of a motorcyclist falling are greatest on wet or icy roads, gravel roads or metal surfaces such as bridges, gratings, or streetcar, or railroad tracks.
  • When following drivers whose view to the rear is blocked you should allow for an extra cushion of space so the vehicle can see you. The drivers of trucks, buses, vans or vehicles pulling campers or trailers may not be able to see your vehicle when you are directly behind them. They could stop suddenly without knowing your vehicle is to the rear. Large vehicles can also block your view of the road ahead; therefore, you should reduce your speed and allow for more space so you can see around the vehicle.
  • Add more space in front of your vehicle when carrying a heavy load or pulling a trailer. The extra weight increases your vehicle's stopping and steering ability.
  • Increase your following interval when it is hard to see ahead because of darkness or bad weather.
  • If your vehicle is being followed closely, you should allow for extra space. Slow down and keep to the right. Your vehicle will then be able to stop or steer effectively without being hit from behind.
  • Police vehicles, law enforcement, ambulances and fire trucks need more space to operate, so increase your following interval. Many states require other vehicles to stay at least 500 feet to the rear of emergency equipment that is a minimum of 10 seconds at 30 mph and a minimum of 6 seconds at speeds of 60 mph.
  • Leave extra space in front of your vehicle for vehicles required to come to a stop at railroad crossings, including transit buses, school buses or vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Leave extra space in front of your vehicle when stopped behind another vehicle on a hill or incline. The vehicle ahead may roll back before it begins to move forward.

5.26.1 - Following Distance for Trucks

Following Distance for Trucks

A truck or any vehicle towing another vehicle may not follow within 300 feet of another truck or vehicle towing a vehicle. This law does not apply to overtaking and passing, and it does not apply within cities or towns.

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