Is The 2-Second Rule Good Enough?

How long does it take to stop your car – if the car in front of you stops on a dime?  The answer is   …   it depends.

 

First, our brains need to compute that the car has stopped and that we need to stop right away, or we’ll crash into them.  That might take a second.  It might take longer if we’re having a conversation or the kids are yelling in the back of the car.  Or, we’re eating or talking on our phones.  Sometimes, we might be daydreaming about a problem that we have and that we need to solve.

 

Visual reminder to start counting at "Zero" - instead of starting at "One", when counting to "Three".

It might take two or three seconds to realize that we’d better stop right away.  Race car drivers are considered perfect if they can stop within a half a second.  None of us are perfect and we do have those distractions that I just mentioned.

 

Why don’t we have more rear-end crashes – then?

 

Most of the time the car in front of us can’t stop immediately because it has its own momentum and that gives us a second or two to notice that they put their brakes on and we’d better stop, too.

 

There are exceptions, of course.  Maybe they weren’t paying attention and a semi-truck stopped suddenly and they didn’t notice.  In that case, they would smash into the Semi and that wouldn’t give YOU time to stop, either.  This is when a driver gets seriously injured.  Pay attention.

 

One time, I was a passenger in a car and the driver WAS paying attention. But, it was twilight and there was a truck in front of him.  He had a bunch of wooden pallets in the back of the truck and one of the pallets suddenly went flying off the truck – onto the road.  The driver responded quickly – but, not quickly enough to avoid an accident.

 

The underbelly of his car suffered quite a bit of damage.  He didn’t have total body coverage and it cost several thousand to get his car fixed.  At least no one in the vehicle suffered any physical injuries.


The main problem is that if the car in front of you brakes heavily, the driver behind him might not even have time to react before hitting it.

 

Keep the following in mind:

  • Motorcycles take longer to stop than cars do.
  • Trucks take even longer to stop than do either motorcycles or cars.
  • Cars that have worn out tires take longer to stop. Different things affect the stop distance – such as, the type of tire, how it’s inflated, the suspension of the tires and how they are balanced.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, (ABS), then you’re in a better situation than someone that does not have anti-lock brakes.
  • Older drivers can have reaction times that exceed 1.5 seconds.

 

Is the 2 second rule enough time – to avoid a collision?

 

The total stopping distance consists of your thinking distance and your braking distance. Under ideal conditions, you’d have one second to realize that you need to stop and one second to bring the auto to a stop, or to take an evasive action.  Technically, two seconds is not enough when you factor in reaction times.

 

When should you use the four-second rule?

 

Increase your following distance to four seconds per car length, if it’s wet or icy out.  That will give you more time and more room to stop properly. 

 


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