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I just recently took one of those on-line traffic school classes to get a small speeding citation cleared from the books. In several of the chapters it states that we should leave a four second gap between you and the car you are following, even if you are in the number 1 passing lane. I know that they are probably required to give this advice but in the REAL world, have any of you ever seen a four second gap for very long? Doesn't that advice make it even more dangerous as we all know that the cars behind you will be compelled to fill in that gap and thereby having to pass you on the right? They even stated that we should have a four second gap when entering the highway.:p

I just yesterday took my commercial van on a 250 mile route to the bay area and then to Modesto before heading home on highway 99. There were times all day that I was in the fast lane with cars ahead of me and behind me going around 75. I would say that the gap was a half a second to three quarters of a second at best. Whenever I left a larger gap in front of me, say a one to one and a half second gap, cars behind me got closer to my bumper and were looking ahead of me so they can fill in the gap when they got an openning. And in the number two and three lanes, probably a one to two second gap between those cars we were passing. In the area we live here in Northern California, the only time I observe a four second gap is when it's mid to late morning going west on highway 80 in light traffic. As soon as we get to a city area, the gaps tighten but the speed stays the same.

The course showed all kinds of numbers to back up the four second theory with how far it takes to brake counting our reaction time. And of course it is logical that we all leave a large gap like four seconds for our own safety and the safety of the other motorists but I still see some danger in this as well. If we are not all abiding by the same rules of the road, then this four second rule may get someone in a rage while driving behind you.

I do know that many people will take this advice to heart and I see them all the time in the number 1 passing lane. If they are going fast enough for you, then you will not be compelled to get around them but if they are going just a little slower than you want to go because you may have more of a sense of urgency than them, you will eventually find a way around them.

I just found it curious that this was mentioned so many times. If the course had stated a two or even three second gap, it wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.:)
 

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You are very right Roger. Almost every driver in California follows way too close. Hence, rear enders are the most common collision. I also pull many people over and investigate many collisions because the person was trying to compensate for a driver behind them. If someone is tailgating you, don't speed up and tailgate the person ahead, or take any other action that is unsafe.
 

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Ha...Ha!

With the driving I've done in L.A. I can't imagine there is
enough highway in all the state to allow for all the cars and
a 4 second gap between them at the same time.

Bumper to bumper at 75 mph is the only way they'll all fit!
 

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RMoore007 said:
.... I know that they are probably required to give this advice but in the REAL world, have any of you ever seen a four second gap for very long? ...
Only when I'm in the lead. :D
 

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Here in Queensland, Australia, some years ago when i sat down and read my road rule book before going for my licence it said 3 second gap, and i have been using it for years.it has saved my bacon many times.
 

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I almost always use a three second gap. In the more traffic congested areas this does not work as the gap will constantly be filled. In these areas I will reduce the gap but try not to go less than two seconds, and be very alert and look ahead.

In open highway situations with light traffic, I increase the gap 4, 5, or 6 seconds depending on the situation. It can sometimes be a personal challenge to see how big of a gap you can have and maintain a constant distance to the vehicle ahead.
 

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In California, 2 seconds is almost doable, 3 seconds will allow about 6 cars per mile to pull in front, 4 seconds will have you finally in reverse. At 4 seconds, may as well stop, turn off the engine, and put it in park. :D
 

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Good topic Roger,

We train our drivers using the Smith System, Space and Visibility training program. This system is very effective in eliminating accidents, especially rear end and intersection accidents. The Smith System calls for 4-6 seconds under 29 MPH and 6-8 seconds for 30 MPH and greater. It is often hard to convince someone that leaving space (and not competing for space) in front will significantly delay ones arrival time. When all is said-and-done it is a matter of seconds (and a matter of a few minutes in a very long trip). I point out to my trainees this fact when I identify a driver with poor skills weaving in-and-out of traffic that when we get to the next exit the driver is only 3 or 4 seconds ahead of us. It is still a matter of personal preference and how much risk a person is willing to accept. ;)

You make a good point about safety and leaving space gives others room to take it away. Defensive driving skills stress yielding the right-of-way (space) and Aggressive/Assertive driving stresses passing and taking space. :D
 

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I commute 106 miles round trip each day, and while it isn't in California, it's mostly interstate miles -- 65 mph here in Ohio, but typically 5-10 more than that. Each and every day, both ways, I see the #1 safety issue as people trying to gain that one car length advantage. If I hang back and try to keep a safe distance to the car in front (2 second, 3 second, whatever) they pass on the right and then cut in front of me.

I'd love to see a dedicated law enforcement effort at targeting this specific activity and writing citations without exception.
 

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I live in Northern California and use the "more than 4 second rule". Many folks cut in front of me, and thats okay; I just allow more room.

This tactic worked well last Friday when a truck jumped on its brakes at 65 and when it was over, my front tire was less than a foot from his bumber. My gut was in my throat.

I hit my brakes so hard the ABS warning light came on and needed to be reset. If I would have followed the 4 second rule, I would not have a bike right now.

I rather take longer, go slower, be un-cool (accourding to some) and allow more distance than be dead. :)

My humble 2 cents
Mark
 

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If people maintained a proper space cushion, drove in the proper lane according to speed, adjusted their speed by the gas pedal vs the brake and only passed on the left.....No more stop and go and no more rear enders. I can go for many miles in the city and never hit a traffic light and hardly ever use my brakes on the freeway. It can be done in So Cal. Oh yea, cruise control in So Cal is next to impossible..
 
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