Following distance

One in 4 crashes is from the rear end. Find out how keeping a safe following distance can help avoid rear end crashes.

The facts

In 2022 there were 2,177 (22%) rear end crashes within Sydney Metro. Almost two thirds of these crashes resulted in injury and 6 were fatality crashes.

In the Cumberland City Council Area, every fifth crash (20%) were rear end crashes. Also, 72% of rear end crashes resulted in injury. Young drivers have been involved in almost every fourth rear end crash.

Most of these crashes could have been avoided had a 3 SECOND GAP been maintained. That is the amount of space you'll need to bring your car to a complete stop within 3 seconds at any given speed or road conditions.

The 3 second rule

To avoid rear end crashes you should maintain a 3 second gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Why not experiment at different speeds with our Stopping Distance Calculator?

For more information, download the Following Distance fact sheet.

Reaction distance and braking distance

When you see the brake lights of the car in front come on, you hit the brake to slow your car down...but in actual fact, there is a small time delay before you do that - your reaction time.

During that period of time, your car is still moving at the same speed out of your control. The faster you are going, the further you will travel during this time.

So your total stopping distance is actually made up of your reaction distance and the distance it takes for your car to stop once you've pressed the brake.

The biggest factor in stopping distances is the speed at which a driver reacts to seeing a hazard - Driver Reaction Time

Response speed depends on several factors thus there is no single, universal reaction time value.

Factors that affect reaction time are: expectation, urgency, mental load, psychological refractory period, age, nature of the signal, visibility, response complexity, time of the day.

Braking time and distance depends on factors such as: the type of braking system, brake pad material, brake alignment, tyre pressure, tread and grip, vehicle weight, suspension system, the coefficient of friction of the road surface, wind speed, slope of road, surface smoothness, the braking technique applied by the driver, weather conditions.

Stopping distances vary according to driver conditions, road and weather conditions and vehicle conditions.

Drivers need to recognise that:

No matter how good driver you think you are and how good your car is, the difference between driving at the speed limit and a few km/h over the limit will result in a much longer stopping distance. That could result in fatal consequences.


The 3 Second Rule Video

How We Can Help

Contact our Road Safety Officer via email to let us know about problems with roads, and find out more about how we’re committed to improving road safety in the Cumberland region.