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March 10, 2022

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Road safety

‘Two-second rule’ campaign launched by National Highways

National Highways have launched a new campaign to tackle the issue of tailgating, a factor in around one in eight crashes on England’s motorways and major A roads.

New technology driving change in road safetyIn a recent National Highways poll, eight in 10 participants said they were aware of the ‘two-second rule’ when they took to the wheel, while 75% said they have never driven too close to the vehicle in front in the past three months.

Despite this, a recent trial of new tailgating cameras on a stretch of the M1 captured 60,343 incidents of vehicles driving too close, in one year.

National Highways has now launched a campaign to tackle the issue. National Highways Head of Road Safety, Jeremy Phillips, says: “Unfortunately, as highlighted by the M1 trial, we know that too many people are driving too close on our roads.

“Most tailgating is unintentional by drivers who don’t realise that they are infringing on someone else’s space. But not leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front is not only very frightening for that driver, it could also have devastating consequences.

“The closer you get, the less time you have to react and stop safely. So, to avoid inadvertently getting too close to the vehicle in front, we would urge drivers to use the two-second rule, and to always ‘stay safe, stay back.”

The Highway Code, which was recently updated, tells drivers to allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced.

The gap should be wider as speeds increase. It rises to 2.4 seconds – about 53 meters – when driving at 50mph and 3.1 seconds – or 96 metres – at 70mph.

Furthermore, the gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased further on icy roads.

To use the rule, drivers should allow the vehicle in front to pass a fixed object such as a lamp post or road sign, then count to two seconds. If they reach two seconds before reaching the reference marker, they should drop back.

Around one third of respondents in the research for National Highways stated that leaving a gap of 1-2 car lengths was sufficient.

In 2021, National Highways and Northamptonshire Police, joined forces in a trial to raise awareness and deter tailgating. Cameras were used on lane one of a stretch of the M1 over 12 months to automatically detect vehicles driving too close.

During the 12-month trial, there were:

  • 60,343 detections
  • 10,994 repeat offenders
  • 2,144 letters sent to drivers warning they had driven too close and highlighting the dangers of not leaving safe braking distance.

Drivers caught in the trial were not prosecuted. Instead, they were informed they had been tailgating and given educational material demonstrating the dangers of driving too close.

Driving too close to another vehicle can lead to prosecution for ‘driving without due care and attention’. This offence carries a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points, and, in some cases, more severe penalties.

Jason Wakeford, Head of Campaigns at road safety charity, Brake, said: “It’s vital that drivers leave enough distance between the vehicle in front to react in time to any sudden dangers. We would urge everyone to respect the tow-second rule to keep them, and other on the road, safe.”

For more information about tailgating and what you can do to stay safe, click here. 

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2 years ago

About 20 years ago I was given a good phrase to remember when doing advanced driver training “only a fool breaks the two second rule” which takes about 2 seconds to say. Use a static marker like a post or bridge so as the vehicle in front passes that point, say the phrase and if you have not finished by the time you past the marker you are too close.

2 years ago

The 2 second rule is brilliant, and where the road has markers to identify it, even better, but what about the countelss HGV that drive with only a few meteres between them, sometimes 4 or more of them in a line on the motorway with less than a car space between each of them this is common practice and surely this should be banned.