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Space Cushion: Easy as Counting

Space Cushion: Easy as Counting


Everyone has heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?” That same saying can be applied to driving. We just change the wording a bit so it says, “If a vehicle gets into an accident and your vehicle is not around, do you have to be involved?” The answer is “no.”

One of the most important ways to keep from being involved in an accident is to use a technique called space cushion driving. What’s that, you ask? That means ensuring there is plenty of space around your vehicle while driving. How does this help? When driving, if a vehicle near you makes any kind of sudden movement, you will have time to react and not be involved in an accident.

Vehicles can make sudden movements for a variety of reasons. Motorists may slow down or stop abruptly because they are about to miss a turn. Maybe they had a tire blow out or an animal ran across their path. No matter the reason, if the car in front of you makes a sudden stop and you’re tailgating, you’ll likely have no option but to slam on the brakes and hope you stop in time.

Under normal driving conditions, you should maintain at least four seconds of following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. As long as you have that kind of cushion, you should be fine if the vehicle you are following makes any kind of sudden movements. In fact, it’s possible that all you’ll have to do is let off the gas instead of slamming on the brakes.

Maintaining a proper following distance is as easy as counting. When the vehicle in front of you passes by a stationary object such as a road sign, utility pole or overpass, start counting off the seconds until your vehicle crosses the same point. If less than four seconds have elapsed, you are following too closely. Again, this four-second cushion should be maintained in normal driving conditions. You should add at least another second or two when driving on wet roads and even a few seconds more for snow and ice.

Maintaining a proper cushion is not just for the space in front of you, but also beside you. Whenever possible, try to keep the lanes next to your vehicle clear. You can do this by merely adjusting your speed to let other cars pass you. If the lane next to you is clear, when the vehicle in front of you has to slow down or stop suddenly, you have the option of either slowing down or simply getting into the other lane. If the lane next to you is blocked by another vehicle, you only have the option to slow down.

Being a safe driver is more than just maintaining control of your own vehicle. It is equally important to watch out for other motorists. Remember that you are sharing the highway with some folks who have never had any kind of formal driver training. A lot of people were taught to drive by their parents as a teenager and never had any additional training. Some parents taught better than others. It’s safe to say that some parents also passed on their bad driving habits, so it’s important to always expect the unexpected.

While you can’t control what other drivers are going to do, you can control your proximity to them when they do it. Even an experienced driver may have a temporary lapse of judgment and drive unsafely. When this happens, if you are far enough away, or have the ability to get into the other lane, you will have nothing to worry about. Remember, it’s as easy as counting, and it will go a long way in preventing you from becoming another statistic.

  • 15 January 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 1066
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-4