A space cushion around your vehicle gives your room to react safely to potential hazards.
A proper space cushion includes:
- Space in front of your vehicles, which you can control by not following other vehicles too closely. The 2 or 3 second rule is a good minimum following distance to practice.
- Space behind your vehicle, which you can control by allowing tailgaters to pass or moving to a slower lane when other vehicles are driving faster than you.
- Space to the sides of your vehicle, which you can control by not driving in other driver’s blind spots, directly next to other vehicles, and not crowding bicyclists on the side of the road.
Reacting to hazards often involves repositioning your vehicle to move out of the way. This may include changing lanes, stopping or slowing, or speeding up. Without proper space, you will have less options for avoiding a hazard.
Sometimes, you may find yourself in situations where you cannot create an adequate space cushion around your car. In this case, you’ll need to know how to split the difference between potential hazards happening at the same time.
In these situations, you’ll want to allow more space for the more dangerous situation. If necessary, you may need to stop or slow down to allow enough time for one hazard to pass and deal with them one at a time.
You can find more information about this topic in the Vehicle Positioning section of your official driver’s handbook.