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Stopping distances and the real risk of tailgating

Having a tailgater right behind you on the highway makes you feel nervous, and it should. It's very dangerous. It's also something that many drivers do accidentally because they have no idea how long they actually need to stop in an emergency.

Let's clear that up first. Generally speaking, if a car is driving along at 60 miles per hour, it cannot stop for 240 feet. In fact, it covers the initial 60 feet before the driver touches the brakes. That's just how long it takes for the driver to process the fact that they have to stop. They then press the brakes, and the car slows down for another 180 feet before stopping.

Even this example makes some assumptions. For one thing, it assumes that the car behind you has brakes that are well-maintained and in good working order. It also assumes that the driver is paying attention and will only take 60 feet to hit the brakes. If they're distracted by a cellphone, for instance, it could take far longer.

Weather conditions and weight also play into it. Heavier vehicles naturally take longer to stop. All vehicles take longer on roads that are wet or icy.

What this means is that 240 feet is the optimal stopping distance when conditions are perfect, and everything goes smoothly. In reality, most stops take far further than that. Does that tailgater behind you actually have any hope of stopping before they hit you in an emergency situation?

They probably do not. This means you could suffer serious injuries, and you need to know what legal options you have to seek compensation.

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