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.
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:
The two-second rule
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.
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.
If someone is following you too closely you should:
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.
Last updated: 5 October 2009