Road Safety Campaign Launched to Highlight Two-second Rule
In an update to the Highway Code, drivers should allow at least a two-second gap in certain road conditions to prevent dangerous tailgating
National Highways have launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving too close to the car in front, a factor in around one in eight crashes on England’s motorways and major A roads.
In a recent National Highways poll, 8 out of 10 respondents said they were aware of the ‘two-second rule’ when driving, while 75% claimed they have never driven too close in the past three months.
This seems contrary to the evidence revealed in a recent one-year trial of new tailgating cameras on a stretch of the M1, which captured 60,343 incidents of vehicles driving too close to the car in front.
To address this, National Highways has now launched a campaign to bring it to drivers’ attention. 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, but 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 longer 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.
Not only that, but drivers need to know that the gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased further in icy conditions.
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 count 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, which is not a safe strategy, especially with varying speeds and road conditions.
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:
10,994 repeat offenders
2,144 letters sent to drivers warning they had driven too close and highlighting the dangers of not leaving a safe braking distance.
Drivers identified in the trial were not prosecuted but were informed they had been tailgating and given educational material to show the dangers of driving too close.
Driving too close to another vehicle can lead to prosecution for ‘driving without due care and attention’, carrying 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 two-second rule to keep them, and others on the road, safe.”