Tyres And Tarmac

There used to be a bumper sticker that said “If you can read this, you are too close!”

You don’t see them so often these days, but the problem hasn’t gone away.

In a car, it is too easy to stop too close to the vehicle ahead, especially in a slow moving queue of traffic. It doesn’t seem to matter if you are all “crawling” along anyway in a stop-start queue.

Or does it?

In fact, there is a lot to be said for creating a “buffer of safety” between you and the vehicle in front, even at slow speeds. One key way we can do this is to remember the mantra “tyres and tarmac” as we bring the car to a halt in a queue. Can I see the rear tyres of the car in front? And can I see where they touch the tarmac as well?

If you can’t, and all you can see is the back window of the car in front, you are potentially putting yourself and other road users at risk.

Imagine a typical high street environment; it’s raining and you are about to join the back of a queue of cars.

You have stopped in time, but a bit late - and you are tight up to the car in front. But the driver behind you has started a skid and slides into the back of your vehicle at about ten mph - enough to push you forwards. You are now the meat in the sandwich of a three-way crash.

If you had left a “tyres and tarmac” gap, at least you wouldn’t be shunted into the vehicle in front. You would also have started to brake earlier, and more gently, and so have reduced the chances of rear end damage too.

Another scenario involves a slight incline, where the car ahead of you starts to roll backwards: if you have left a reasonable gap, there is less risk of an actual hit.

And if that car ahead of you stalls, or breaks down, you might need to change lanes to keep going. You can’t do so if you are too tight up to it, and the reversing option may be dangerous.

If you have left a “tyres and tarmac” gap, you will have room to manoeuvre away.

2 June 2006 Staff
 
 

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