Assured Clear Distance — Avoiding Rear-End Collisions

According to the National Safety Council, more than 2.5 million rear-end collisions are reported every year, making them the most common type of automobile accident. The likelihood of a rear-end collision is about 14 times higher than any other workplace accident.

The root cause of most rear-end collisions is insufficient distance between vehicles. The driver fails to keep enough distance between his/her vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. When the first vehicle stops, turns suddenly or simply slows down unexpectedly, the second vehicle does not have sufficient time and space to stop before colliding with it.

We often call these accidents “whiplash accidents” because they can result in whiplash injury to the driver in the front vehicle. About 20 percent of all people involved in rear-end collisions exhibit whiplash symptoms. Spinal and back injuries require long recovery times and can result in permanently impaired physical conditions.

Keep an assured clear distance (unobstructed space between the lead vehicle and the trailing vehicle) to help eliminate rear-end collisions. When following a vehicle, always drive as though a sudden stop will happen and practice the following procedures to help prevent a rear-end collision:

  1. Maintain a safe following distance — at least one vehicle length for each 10 miles-per-hour.
  2. Increase your following distance when:
    • Roads are slippery;
    • Visibility is low;
    • Being tailgated;
    • Following a large vehicle; or
    • Following a vehicle that could stop suddenly, like a bus or a garbage truck.
  3. Be aware of your surroundings.
  4. Be predictable:
    • Slow gradually when coming to a stop;
    • Use your turn signals; and
    • Check your signal lights frequently to make sure they work.

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