UAE road safety: ‘Three-second gap’ indicates safe distance

Braking distance depends on attentiveness, road surface, weather conditions and the state of the vehicle.

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DUBAI // The safe following distance for vehicles is measured as a three-second gap. Motorists are advised to select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a signpost or a tree. When the vehicle ahead passes the object, they should slowly count, “One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand”.

If the motorist reaches the object before completing the count, he is too close to the vehicle in front. The three-second gap gives drivers the time and distance to react to trouble.

The safe gap between vehicles is a combination of thinking time and braking distance, since it depends on the driver’s attentiveness, road surface, weather conditions and the state of the vehicle, according to road safety codes published by the UK Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

At 80 kilometres an hour, the typical stopping distance would be about 53 metres, or 13 car lengths, and at 112kph it would go up to 96m, or 24 car lengths. An average car length is four metres.

The US department of transportation’s advice follows a similar path with the warning that if a vehicle is following another too closely, even if the driver following is attentive, he will not be able to avoid a collision if the driver in front brakes suddenly.

The tips prescribed are to keep a three-second gap or 74 metres for cars travelling at 55mph, or 88kph and 102m for cars at 121kph.

The three-second count doubles in case of bad weather, experts said. Those driving large vehicles should follow a four-second count to stay safe.

In the UAE, experts advise keeping to the three-second count in normal weather and to increase it to five seconds in conditions of low visibility.

Safe distance tips can be seen on