Ask the Trooper: What are laws on tailgating?I believe “following too close” is one of the most under-reported factors in crashes. The reason I say this is based on my experiences while traveling and watching traffic in general.
By: Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Trooper, Alexandria Echo Press
Question: I have a question about people riding your bumper and tailing at unsafe distances. Driving back and forth from work every day, and even just cruising through town, I constantly get tailed by people. Not only is it annoying, but it’s dangerous. What are the laws on safe following distances for vehicles, and what can be done when someone is riding your bumper?
Answer: Excellent topic! I understand your concern and frustration. I believe “following too close” is one of the most under-reported factors in crashes. The reason I say this is based on my experiences while traveling and watching traffic in general. Minnesota State Statute 169.18 Sub.8a says, “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the conditions of the highway.”
There is no requirement on a specific distance, unless towing a trailer. But this is where good common sense should come into play, and this is what I say in accordance with the Minnesota Safety Council.
Defensive driving instructors now teach what we call the 3-Second-Plus Following Distance Rule. Watch the vehicle in front of you. When that vehicle gets past an object such as a sign, pole, bridge, etc., then count off three seconds. You should not arrive at that spot sooner than your count to three. If you do, then you are following too close.
Also, you must add one second for every hazard that exists. Hazards include but are not limited to heavy traffic, rain, snow, fog and driving into the sun. In some cases, you might have to allow six, seven seconds (or even more) to be safe because of existing hazards.
Learn how to recognize any kind of hazard while you are driving out there, and practice the 3-second-plus following rule. If everyone were to do this, we would not have so many crashes, injuries or deaths on our roadways.
We get many complaints of trucks following too close. Contrary to popular belief, crash facts show a much larger number of cars and pickup trucks being involved in fatal rear end crashes than semi-truck tractors pulling trailers.
If someone is following you too close, pull over and let them by. Tapping your brake lights may not always be a safe option, but in certain cases might help temporarily. Not everyone who follows other vehicles real close wants to pass you. Some drivers have developed a habit of driving that way all the time.
Check in your mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds so you know what is going on around you. While we cannot control the vehicles around us, we can control our own. We need to choose to drive safely in all conditions.
If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205 or at email@example.com.