About riding

Following distance

It's very important to make sure you have a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. You need this distance to give you time to take action if the person in front of you stops suddenly. It also gives you a better view of the road ahead and the hazards you need to avoid.

Several seconds will pass from the time you see the hazard until you can come to a complete stop. This is because you need time to react to the hazard and take action - using your brakes - as well as time for the brakes to slow the vehicle down.

The faster you are going, the longer it will take to stop. This means you must increase your following distance as you increase your speed.

A good way to make sure you always keep a safe following distance is to use the two-second rule or the four-second rule.

The two-second rule

Under normal conditions, the two-second rule is an easy way to make sure you have left enough following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front, no matter what speed you're travelling at.

To check if you are travelling two seconds behind the vehicle in front:

  • watch the vehicle in front of you pass a landmark - such as a sign, tree or power pole - at the side of the road
  • as it passes the landmark, start counting 'one thousand and one, one thousand and two'
  • if you pass the landmark before you finish saying those eight words, you are following too closely - slow down, pick another landmark and repeat the words to make sure you have increased your following distance.
The two-second rule

The two-second rule


Important

When you're following another vehicle and you don't intend to overtake them, you must leave enough space in front of your vehicle for vehicles behind you to pass.

The four-second rule

In bad weather, when the road is wet or slippery, or if someone is following you too closely, you need to increase your following distance to four seconds, because you'll take longer to stop if you need to.

To check that you are travelling four seconds behind the vehicle in front, follow the instructions for the two-second rule, but count 'one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, one thousand and four' instead.

This also applies to riding at night.

Distance behind

If someone is following you too closely you should:

  • slow down and increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead from a two-second gap to a four-second gap - this gives you and the tailgater more time to react in an emergency
  • when safe, move to the left to let the tailgater pass.

Important

Some people take longer to react to hazards than others. If you're tired, or your reaction times are slower than normal, you should take this into account and increase your following distance.

< previous | next >

Last updated: 5 October 2009