Rear-end accidents are the most common of all auto and vehicle crashes in the U.S. They account for just about a third of all auto accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although rear-enders rarely cause fatalities, they cause a lot of property damage and, more important, serious injuries.
Some help for drivers is on the horizon with the proliferation of vehicles with advanced crash avoidance technologies on board. These forward-collision warning systems and crash avoidance braking systems could offer drivers the extra seconds to respond before a collision occurs. In fact, according to the NHTSA, 90 percent of all rear-end accidents could be prevented if the driver in the rear had just one more second to react.
Until these technologies are in every vehicle on the road, there are things every driver can do to prevent a rear-end accident.
- Maintain the recommended safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. A “safe distance” is often defined as enough distance to allow you to observe the driver in front of you braking, to put your foot on the brake and to stop safely without hitting the leading car. This is customarily defined with the three-second rule, which says you should be driving three seconds behind the car in front of you. (Choose some stationary object. Start counting when the car in front of you passes that object. If you pass the object before you reach the number three, you are driving too close.)
- Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you when appropriate. Many agencies recommend that you increase the distance to four seconds when driving conditions warrant. These conditions include: wet, slippery or icy roads; conditions that reduce visibility (snow storm, rain downpour, darkness, fog, glare, etc.); when you are being tailgated (the point is to provide yourself extra time to brake slowly rather than suddenly); when following a large vehicle that blocks your visibility of the road ahead (often a tractor-trailer, but sometimes a van or pick-up truck); and any time you are behind a vehicle that makes frequent stops (for example, a school bus or mail truck).
- Remain aware of what is happening around you. It is not enough to watch the vehicle in front of you. You also need to be aware of was the driver of a vehicle following you is doing, and of your proximity to other vehicles around you. It is also advisable to keep an eye on the sides of the road to identify someplace to go if you need to take evasive action (I once heard this described as picking out a soft spot on the side of the road). This kind of visibility helps you to avoid the blind spots of another car or truck and to position your vehicle so that you have a way to evade another vehicle.
- When you stop, leave sufficient space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to take evasive action – change lands or pull over – if necessary.
- Drive predictably and with an eye to the reaction time of the driver behind you. Be consistent in using turn signals when changing lanes and always making safe lane changes. Try to come to a stop slowly and smoothly.
Your actions behind the wheel might not prevent every rear-end accident, but those actions might prevent the rear-ender that could cause serious injury to yourself or your passengers. Insulating yourself with adequate space surrounding your vehicle gives both you and drivers behind you as much time to react as possible. Hopefully, these tips will help you prevent a rear-end accident.
If you or a loved one is injured in a rear-end accident, take the appropriate actions after any crash (call 911, call your insurance company, get medical attention), and call the experienced and trusted attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C. We are here to help you and to represent you in obtaining justice and fair compensation for your hurts and harms.