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Should You Increase or Decrease Your Following Distance?

Should You Increase or Decrease your Following distance

Questions about Following Distance on Your DMV Test

On your permit or driver’s license test you are likely to see a question or two about following distance.

Since rear-end crashes are very common, maintaining a proper following distance is critical for safe driving. Not leaving enough distance between yourself and the car in front of you is known as tailgating. The result is often a rear-end crash and the vehicle following is normally at fault.

Stopping Distances

Get a feel for stopping distances. You are rarely asked for numbers, but you should know that stopping takes much longer and further than many people think. A stopping distance also includes perception and reaction distance. This is the distance your car travels before you start hitting the brakes.


For a long time, two seconds were the standard recommendation under normal driving conditions. Today, most experts agree that you should keep a distance of at least three seconds for most driving situations.

There are, however, many situations where a longer following distance is required. You must fall back when road or weather conditions are bad, when it is dark or you cannot see clearly, and in unfamiliar areas. You must also fall back when you are following vehicles that block your view ahead.

The Pitfall

On our practice tests nearly one out of five (20%) answers these questions incorrectly when the words decrease and increase are used.

Decrease is the same as “reducing something or making it smaller or shorter”. If you decrease your following distance you make it shorter or smaller and you will end up closer to the vehicle in front of you.

Increase is the opposite. It means “becoming larger or longer or more numerous or more important”. An increased distance means that there is a larger – and safer – gap between vehicles.

Giving yourself a greater space cushion and maintaining a better distance to vehicles ahead is the same as increasing your following distance.

Learn more: What is a Safe Following Distance?

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  1. Increasing your following distance means getting closer to the car ahead of you right?

    • The opposite. In bad weather you should increase a following distance from 2-3 seconds to 4-5 seconds or even more. As the distance to the car ahead increases, your two vehicles will be farther away from each other.

      When you decrease you following distance, you get closer.

  2. Thanks for the heads up Earl. Or should I say the, “Tails up?”. Get it? ….. back of the vehicle?

  3. Be careful on this question because at first glance you might select “decreasing” misinterpreting as decreasing “speed” which would increase your stopping distance.

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