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2.7 – Managing Space

To be a safe driver, you need space all around your vehicle. When things go wrong, space gives you time to think and to take action. To have space available when something goes wrong, you need to manage space. While this is true for all drivers, it is important for large vehicles. They take up more space and require more space for stopping and turning.

2.7.1 – Space Ahead

Of all the space around your vehicle, it is the area ahead of the vehicle — the space you are driving into — that is most important.

The Need for Space Ahead. You need space ahead in case you must suddenly stop. According to accident reports, the vehicle that trucks and buses most often drive into is the one in front of them. The most frequent cause is following too closely.

Remember: If the vehicle ahead of you is smaller than yours, it can probably stop faster than you can. You may crash if you are following too closely.

How Much Space?

How much space should you keep in front of you? One good rule says you need at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length at speeds below 40 mph. At greater speeds, you must add one second for safety. For example, if you are driving a 40-foot vehicle, leave four seconds between you and the vehicle ahead. In a 60-foot rig, you will need six seconds. Over 40 mph, you would need five seconds for a 40-foot vehicle and seven seconds for a 60-foot vehicle.

To know how much space you have, wait until the vehicle ahead passes a shadow on the road, a pavement marking or some other clear landmark. Then count off the seconds like this: “one thousand-and-one, one thousand-and-two” and so on, until you reach the same spot. Compare your count with the rule of one second for every 10 feet of length.

If you are driving a 40-foot truck and only counted up to two seconds, you are too close. Drop back a little and count again until you have four seconds of following distance (or five seconds, if you are going over 40 mph). After a little practice, you will know how far back you should be.

Remember: Add one second for speeds above 40 mph.

Also remember: When the road is slippery, you need more space to stop.

2.7.2 – Space Behind

You cannot stop others from following you too closely, but there are things you can do to make it safer.

Stay to the Right. Heavy vehicles are often tailgated when they cannot keep up with the speed of traffic. This often happens when you are going uphill. If a heavy load is slowing you down, stay in the right lane if you can. Going uphill, you should not pass another slow vehicle unless you can get around quickly and safely.

Dealing with Tailgaters Safely. In a large vehicle, it is often hard to see whether a vehicle is close behind you. You may be tailgated:

  • When you are traveling slowly. Drivers trapped behind slow vehicles often follow closely.
  • In bad weather. Many car drivers follow large vehicles closely during bad weather, especially when it is hard to see the road ahead.

If you are being tailgated, do the following to reduce the chances of a crash:

  • Avoid quick changes. If you have to slow down or turn, signal early and reduce speed gradually.
  • Increase your following distance. Opening up room in front of you will help you avoid having to make sudden speed or direction changes. It also makes it easier for the tailgater to get around you.
  • Do not speed up. It is safer to be tailgated at a low speed than a high speed.
  • Avoid tricks. Do not turn on your taillights or flash your brake lights. Follow the suggestions above.

Multiple-Choice Questions:

Question #100 (1 of 3)

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Of all the space around your vehicle, which is the most important?

  • The space within your blind spots
  • The space ahead of the vehicle
  • The space in the lane to your left
  • The space directly alongside the vehicle
Of all the space around your vehicle, it is the area ahead of the vehicle — the space you are driving into — that is most important.
I believe the most important thing a professional driver can do for safety is to maintain a large following distance. Give yourself a ton of space in front of your vehicle and you'll have more time to react in an emergency.
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Question #102 (2 of 3)

Give a brief explanation of the problem:

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If someone is tailgating you, which of following is a bad idea:

  • Avoid tricks
  • Increase following distance
  • Stab the brakes one time quickly to alert the driver behind you he's too close
  • Avoid quick lane changes

If you are being tailgated, do the following to reduce the chances of a crash:

  • Avoid quick changes. If you have to slow down or turn, signal early and reduce speed gradually.
  • Increase your following distance. Opening up room in front of you will help you avoid having to make sudden speed or direction changes. It also makes it easier for the tailgater to get around you.
  • Do not speed up. It is safer to be tailgated at a low speed than a high speed.
  • Avoid tricks. Do not turn on your taillights or flash your brake lights. Follow the suggestions above.
I believe the most important thing a professional driver can do for safety is to maintain a large following distance. Give yourself a ton of space in front of your vehicle and you'll have more time to react in an emergency.
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Question #101 (3 of 3)

Give a brief explanation of the problem:

Optional: Leave your email address if you would like a reply:

Report Cancel

What is a good rule-of-thumb for the amount of space you must keep in front of you?

  • If you can read the license plate of the vehicle in front of you, you're too close
  • At speeds below 40 mph, you don't have to worry about it too much. At speeds above 40 mph it's important to keep at least 4 seconds of following distance.
  • At least one second for every 30 feet of vehicle length at speeds below 50 mph. At greater speeds, you must add one second for safety.
  • At least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length at speeds below 40 mph. At greater speeds, you must add one second for safety.
How much space should you keep in front of you? One good rule says you need at least one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length at speeds below 40 mph. At greater speeds, you must add one second for safety. For example, if you are driving a 40- foot vehicle, you should leave four seconds between you and the vehicle ahead. In a 60-foot rig, you will need six seconds. Over 40 mph, you would need five seconds for a 40-foot vehicle and seven seconds for a 60-foot vehicle.
I believe the most important thing a professional driver can do for safety is to maintain a large following distance. Give yourself a ton of space in front of your vehicle and you'll have more time to react in an emergency.
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