Jan 30

Gauging proper following distance – Part 2

Are you teaching your teen to drive but not quite sure where to begin? DriveitHOME can help! We’ve developed practice following distance phototips and lessons for each week of the year so your teen’s learning process can be as smooth as possible. The lessons are a simple click away and, just like that, you’re on track to teaching your teen to drive – the right way.

Today’s lesson, part 2 of 2, explains how to teach your teen driver proper following distances.

Following distance (Part 2)

Back when we were learning how to drive, this was how we gauged safe following distance: Leave approximately one care length for each 10 miles per hour you were driving. For example, 30 mph equaled three car lengths; 60 mph equaled six car lengths.

Now, we talk about the 3-second rule as the best way to determine how closely we should follow the vehicle in front of us.

Teach your teen the right way to figure it out:

  • Start counting when the car ahead passes a fixed object, such as a telephone pole, a billboard or any fixed object. Count “one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three” to measure three seconds. If you car reaches the fixed object before you stop counting, you’re following too closely. Ease off the accelerator a bit to widen the gap. Then check your following distance again.
  • Significantly increase following distance in bad weather. This will allow you more reaction time.
  • If you are being tailgated, use a 5- or 6-second following distance and slow down. This will encourage the bad driver who’s tailgating to pass you.
  • If you’re hauling a boat, trailer or camper, teach your teen to add 1 second to your following distance for every 10 feet of additional length. The added weight of the trailer requires a longer stopping distance for your vehicle.

Teens really struggle gauging proper following distance when they first start driving. In fact, it’s one of the reasons their crash risk is three times that of more experienced drivers. Following distance isn’t something we as parents really think about teaching when we start riding shotgun with our teens. But we can’t overlook it. No one wants their teen to be that bad driver who’s tailgating. That’s just an accident waiting to happen.

Don’t forget to sign up to receive these driving lessons and tips right to your inbox, and visit DriveitHOME.org for the best information on coaching your teen driver.


  1. Ivy

    Very good tips for teens learning, some things are new to me as well even though I have driving experience. Parents are responsible as much as driving schools in showing teens that driving is very serious and responsible activity.

  2. maureen

    Parents play a very critical role in teen drivers’ development. Our blog post about parent involvement might help explain further: http://teensafedriving.org/blog/dont-think-teens-pay-attention-think-again/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

For spam filtering purposes, please copy the number 6137 to the field below: