Winter weather brings ice and snow covered road conditions, increasing the chance of becoming involved in a motor vehicle accident. According to the 2007 crash data collected by the SD Department of Public Safety - Office of Accident Records, there were significantly more accidents in November and December than the other months. Over 36% of the accidents were rear-end collisions. Two of the leading causes were Driving Too Fast for Conditions and Following Too Closely. Following a vehicle too closely is “tailgating” and is frequently considered aggressive driving. Aggressive driving leads to road rage.
The “three second rule” is an easy guide to establish a safe following distance. To determine the safe following distance, select a fixed object on the road ahead (such as a sign, tree, etc.), and when the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, count “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand”. If you reach the object before the third second, you are following too closely. For heavy traffic, night-time driving or inclement weather, double the “three second rule” to six seconds. For hazardous road conditions (fog, heavy rain and snow, etc.), triple the “three second rule” to nine seconds.
If you are being tailgated, create more space between you and the car in front of you. This gives you more time to respond if something happens. If possible, change lanes or slow down slightly, allowing the tailgater to pass. Do not tap your brakes, and absolutely do not slam on your brakes to teach them a lesson. This is dangerous for you, your passengers and everyone around you, and is also considered aggressive driving.
Following Too Closely is a Class 2 misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $104. Following Too Closely at ridiculously close distances or high speeds can constitute Careless or Reckless Driving.
So please, count to three… and drive safely.
Reference: SDCL 32-26-40