One simple rule to follow while you drive is that you should always keep three seconds between vehicles. You’ll learn to roughly gauge this without counting in time, but the best way to train is to occasionally count seconds between stationary objects, ensuring that you’re far enough back.
The goal of this rule is to prevent rear-end accidents. Often, people who drive too close — even when they don’t realize it — simply don’t have the reaction time needed on the road. When the car ahead stops suddenly or when another accident happens up ahead, they cannot stop and wind up in a chain-reaction crash.
That said, remember that this is just a minimum. You may need even more space than three seconds provides.
Consider the conditions
One big factor to consider is how your road conditions look that day. Are the roads wet? Is it raining, snowing or foggy? Are you on a gravel road where you may not be able to stop as quickly as you would on the pavement?
If in doubt, do not hesitate to back off even further. You may need four or five seconds.
The reason people don’t follow the three-second rule (or add extra time) is because you generally don’t need to use it. The traffic ahead of you is predictable, and it feels safe getting even closer. Don’t buy into this mindset, though, or you’re not going to be ready when something unexpected finally does happen. Stay vigilant, and you can avoid getting involved in an accident.
Of course, the driver behind you may not be as careful. If you get injured in a crash they cause, then you may be able to seek compensation.