Ask a Trooper: Drivers should utilize 3-second rule

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sgt. Troy Christianson

Minnesota State Patrol

Question: What is the correct following distance? Everyone seems to be way too close behind each other. What can I do as a driver having someone too close behind me? Isn’t there a rule of so many vehicle lengths for miles per hour to use as a guide?

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Answer: The law states that vehicles pulling trailers must maintain a minimum following distance of 500 feet. This includes trucks as well as semi-truck tractors with trailers.

Sgt. Troy Christianson Ask a Trooper Minnesota State Patrol

Sgt. Troy Christianson
Ask a Trooper
Minnesota State Patrol

The law also states that you shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the conditions of the highway. While the law does not state a specific distance for vehicles not pulling trailers, we do teach a rule that may help you.

The Minnesota Safety Council Defensive Driving Instructors now teach what we call the Three-Second-Plus Following Distance Rule. Watch the vehicle in front of you, when that vehicle passes an object such as a sign, pole, bridge, etc., count off three seconds. You should not arrive at that object sooner than your count to three. If you do, you are following too close!

Also, you must add one second for each hazard that exists. Hazards include but are not limited to heavy traffic, rain, snow, fog, driving into the sun, etc.

In some cases you may have to allow more than six or seven seconds due to existing hazards.

Learn to recognize hazards while you are driving and practice the three-second-plus following rule.

If all drivers were to adhere to this practice, we would see fewer crashes, injuries and deaths on our roadways. Contrary to popular belief, crash facts show a much larger number of cars and pickup trucks involved in fatal rear end crashes than semi-truck tractors pulling trailers.

If a vehicle is following you too closely, pull over and let them by. Not every driver that follows too closely wants to pass you; some drivers have developed a habit of driving that way all the time.

While you cannot control the vehicles around you, you can control your own. Check your mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds so you know what is going around you and choose to drive safely in all conditions.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th ST NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848. Follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_SOUTH