What is the benefit of a space cushion around your vehicle?

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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. 

Related DMV Questions & Answers for Positioning, Space and Vision:

When are some of the most important times to check traffic behind you?

What is a blind spot?

What should your first response to reduced visibility be?

About how far down the road should you look to avoid last minute moves?

What should you do first if a vehicle suddenly cuts in front of you and creates a hazard?

What should you do when driving behind another vehicle at night?

What is the best way to deal with a tailgater?

When should you increase your following distance?

What should you do when you enter the deceleration lane or the exit ramp?

What should you do when merging onto a freeway?

What should you do when changing lanes on the freeway?

How should you exit the freeway?

What are the different driving lanes?

What are the different types of interchanges?

What do yellow lines tell you about the flow of traffic?

What do you need to know about the shoulder while driving?

What should you do when driving in reverse?