Next time you go for a drive and hit a red light, pay attention to where you stop your car. If you find yourself stopped behind another car, take note of how close to it you stop. Can you see the rear license plate of the car in front of you?

I was taught in driver’s ed to always stop with enough room between you and the car in front of you. That way, if you get rear ended by the car behind you, you’re less likely to be pushed into the care in front of you. But there’s another good reason to leave some room between you and the car ahead of you: the danger of that car backing into you.

You may think it never happens. Who puts their car in reverse on the road? Isn’t that gear reserved for backing out of parking spaces, or making three-point turns in situations where the road is too narrow for a U-turn? But as it turns out, it’s just as necessary to protect the front of your car at red lights as the back.

In fact, it seems this bizarre backing behavior is so common that Roadshow, a regular column in the Mercury News, did a column about it. And here at GJEL, we see our fair share of interesting car accidents. In fact, it seems that having a car back into you doesn’t only happen at red lights.

Enter another driver’s ed tip: keep a safe distance from the cars driving ahead of you! That means for every 10 miles per hour you’re travelling, you should keep one second of space. Confused? Here’s an example: If you’re travelling at forty miles per hour, it should take you four seconds to pass whatever the car ahead of you passed. You can check yourself easily. Note when the car in front of you passes something– a tree, a light post, a driveway–and count the seconds until you pass it. This should give you enough time to react to any strange behavior on the part of the car in front of you.

The lesson is to always keep a safe distance from the cars around you. Doing so can give you enough reaction time to prevent a serious accident and might even save your life.

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.