How to avoid car accidents using truckers’ “rule of seconds”

Commercial truckers are taught how to gauge the braking distance between themselves and another vehicle. This is a very important calculation, as a truck is much heavier than a regular passenger vehicle, especially when it is fully loaded. If a trucker is following too closely to another vehicle and has to make a sudden stop, he could cause a serious accident because he hasn’t allowed himself enough distance to stop before striking the vehicle. That’s where the “rule of seconds” comes into play.


How is the rule of seconds calculated?

For truckers, and in some states, it is called the “rule of seconds.” A trucker driving a 40 foot vehicle traveling at under 40 mph should leave 4 seconds between the truck and the vehicle in front of him. That's one second for each ten feet of vehicle length. If the truck driver is driving a 40 foot vehicle at a speed over 40 mph, then he should leave 5 seconds between the two vehicles, or one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length plus one extra second for safety.


As a driver, you should be able to count, “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three,” before reaching a fixed point ahead (like a sign or overpass) which the vehicle in front of you has just passed. If you reach the mark before you have counted to three (or more if you are going faster than 44 mph) then you are following too closely. Slow down and increase the following distance. In inclement weather, leaving more space is important.


To be even safer, the National Safety Council (NSC), recommends leaving five seconds, with three seconds being a minimum, especially if you are towing something like a boat or a trailer. They advise adding one second to your following distance for every 10 feet of additional length.


Is a big rig tailgating you?

There is yet another way to use the rule of seconds and that’s when a you think a truck behind you is following too closely. Most vehicles driving 60 miles per hour travel about 88 feet per second. A tractor trailer is about 65 feet in length. If the trucker is following the rule of seconds, he should be 660 feet behind you when traveling 60 miles per hour, or more than two football fields. The calculation is 6.5 seconds plus one second equals 7.5 seconds, times 88 feet, which adds up to 660 feet.


If you feel the truck is too close to you, don’t worry about calculating the distance. Just change lanes and get out of his way. If you can’t change lanes, and the big rig is bearing down on you, speed up to set a safe space.


If you are the victim of a driver following too closely and causing an accident, please give us a call. We have a great deal of experience dealing with these types of accidents, and would like to help you in any way possible.


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