If there was a way to dramatically reduce your odds of being in a motor vehicle accident, would you do it? There is such a method. It’s easy to use, and you probably learned about it in drivers education.

The safety method is called the 3-second rule. Transportation safety experts agree that following this rule greatly enhances the safety of those who use it.

Think about time, not distance

When drivers think about stopping their vehicles, many think in terms of space. But what really matters is time, according to national safety organizations and insurance industry analysts.

The 3-second rule means leaving 3 second of time between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Why is 3 seconds the magic number? It takes about 1.5 seconds to notice a risk that’s in front of you, and another 1.5 seconds for a driver and car to react (braking and/or slowing down).

How to use the 3-second rule

The 3-second rule is easy to implement.

Wait for the vehicle in front to pass an object, like a roadside pole or tree.

After the vehicle passes the object, start counting: “one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three.”

If you reach the object before you count to three, you’re too close to the vehicle in front of you.

When 3 seconds is not enough

There are variations to the three-second rule.

  • If you are driving an SUV, you need 5 seconds between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
  • If you are at the wheel of a commercial truck, you need at least 6 seconds.
  • In bad weather, add at least one more second.

Your vehicle could be loaded with safety features, and that is great. Use the 3-second rule for an extra, free level of safety.