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Assured Clear Distance Explained

Following too closely is defined by the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency as "situations in which one vehicle is following another vehicle so closely that even if the following driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead he/she could not avoid a collision in the circumstance when the driver in front brakes suddenly." Following vehicles too closely is the number one cause of rear end crashes in West Virginia. How do we avoid this type of accident?

Most, if not all, rear end crashes may be avoided by drivers keeping a safe separation distance between themselves and other vehicles ahead. Perhaps remembering the concept of "Assured Clear Distance Ahead" is a good start for any driver.

In the case of motor vehicles, "Assured Clear Distance Ahead" is the distance ahead of any automobile or truck, which can be seen to be clear of hazards by its driver, within which they should be able to bring the vehicle to a halt. This distance is both determined and confined by the proximate edge of clear visibility and is a spatial component to the common law basic speed rule. The two-second rule associated with ACDA is a helpful rule of thumb that has been shown to considerably reduce risk tailgating and rear-end collisions, while also minimizing the severity of an accident should one occur.

Two-Second Rule

Intended for automobiles, although its general principle also applies to other types of vehicles, the two-second rule dictates that a driver should remain at least two seconds behind any vehicle preceding it. Because It is equivalent to one vehicle-length for every 8 km/h (5 mph) of the current speed, drivers may find it somewhat difficult to continuously calculate distance using this formula while driving. By observing the two-second rule, any of estimation are simply and logically avoided. Further, the two-second rule may be applied to any speed.

To figure the distance correctly pick a point on the road, like a sign or other distinct spot in the pavement, watch the vehicle ahead pass this point and count the seconds it takes you to reach this point. The number of seconds counted is the safe following distance.

W. Va. Code ยง17C-7-10. Following too closely.
Keeping a safe distance is required by West Virginia law , which states that a "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 condition of the highway." As to trucks, defined as motor trucks of a gross weight more than 8000 lbs., it is unlawful for them to follow within 200 feet of another vehicle. Thus, West Virginia drivers must adhere to a "reasonable and prudent" standard, which may vary dependent upon factors like visibility, traffic, road conditions and weather.

Thus, circumstances may dictate that drivers modify or adapt the two-second rule to four or even eight seconds when driving at night or during inclement weather. Even light rain and an overcast sky may affect road conditions. Bridges and overpasses often become slick in cold weather before other road surfaces. Drivers must remain vigilant for any other information which may offer reason to believe the car they're following may suddenly stop.

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and are concerned regarding the assertion of your claims and protection of your rights, please call Amy Crossan, an expert in personal injury law, for a consultation at 304.523.8451.

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