The in basket: I was cleaning out old e-mails when I came across one from Donald Payne, sent in 2008, to which I’d never attended.
“Yesterday I was signing up a senior driver for an AARP Senior Driver Class,” Don said, “and she said she had seen a program on TV in which two
Washington State Patrolmen were discussing, explaining and advocating a two-second following distance. I saw the program myself, earlier, and
that’s what they were dealing with — a two-second distance. “The lady said she was confused. She is aware that the
State Driver’s Guide says four seconds; and having taken our class previously, she is aware of the three-second recommendation.
“So, the lady’s question is: Which one is right? Is it two, three, or four?
“What’s your take on the situation?”
The out basket: One of the troopers in question, Johnny Alexander, said he and Monica Alexander “may have briefly mentioned following distance during the KOMO Traffic Reports more than three-years ago. (That would have been around 2005.)
“However, we never participated in a television program where following distance was the topic,” he said. “The Department of Licensing Drivers Guide, page 71 – “Space Ahead,” indicates if you are driving 30 mph or less, the two- to three-second rule is recommended. However, at speeds higher than 30 mph, the four-second rule is recommended. The Washington State Drivers Guide can be accessed through www.dol.wa.gov.
“We encourage our troopers to use the four-second rule. Most troopers add one-second to the count to further reduce the chance of being the causing driver of a rear-end collision,” he said.
Since Don asked, my take on the situation is you’ll be darn lucky to maintain the recommended distance from the car ahead on a multi-lane highway in heavy traffic as some other driver will probably slide into the space, but it’s worth a try. It should be easily observed on a two-lane highway.
And in case this whole idea is foreign to you, here is how the driver’s guide says it works:
• Watch when the rear of the vehicle ahead passes a sign, pole, or any other stationary point.
• Count the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one- thousand, four-one-thousand. You are following too closely if you pass the mark before you finish counting.
• If so, drop back and then count again at another spot to check the new following distance. Repeat until you are following no closer than four seconds.