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View Poll Results: How much space do you typically leave between you and the car in front of you at a red light?
As little as possible 31 16.76%
5 - 10 feet 128 69.19%
A car length or more 7 3.78%
Depends 19 10.27%
Voters: 185. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 12-28-2010, 11:06 PM
DCnDC DCnDC is online now
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How much space do you leave between you and the car in front of you at a red light?

If you're a "a car length or more" person I'm curious as to the benefit of leaving yourself that much space.
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  #2  
Old 12-28-2010, 11:11 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is offline
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A couple of metres or so, I suppose. I might leave more if it were a big truck, or something else that I wanted to overtake as soon as the lights turned green.
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  #3  
Old 12-28-2010, 11:13 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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I was taught in Driver's Ed to leave enough space so that you could see the bottom of the tires of the car in front of you. But I also seem to remember something about leaving a lot of space in case someone rear-ends you. If someone really nails you and you're too close, you'll hit the car in front of you too. I assume that's what excessive space leavers are thinking.
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  #4  
Old 12-28-2010, 11:14 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Doesn't the rule of thumb say that you should be able to see its rear wheels?
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  #5  
Old 12-28-2010, 11:17 PM
chizzuk chizzuk is offline
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
If you're a "a car length or more" person I'm curious as to the benefit of leaving yourself that much space.
Because then if something happens to block the lane ahead of you, you can merge over to an adjacent lane without taking out the car ahead's rear bumper.

It has happened to me several times that traffic is moving extremely slowly approaching a traffic light, nobody can see far enough ahead to figure out why, and then it turns out that there's a bus broken down or someone has stalled in my lane or something and I suddenly need to get over from basically a dead standstill. Having a little extra space to maneuver reduces stress.

I don't know if I leave a full car length, and of course if the ass of my car is blocking someone from a turn lane or whatever I'll move up, but I usually leave a good deal of space.
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  #6  
Old 12-28-2010, 11:40 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
Doesn't the rule of thumb say that you should be able to see its rear wheels?
That's my rule of thumb. I want enough space to be able to change lanes without the car in front of me moving. IOW, if his car dies, I don't want to have to back up to move. It's also, and I know this sounds stupid, safer if you were to get car jacked or have someone banging on your window trying to rob you. In fact, I make extra sure to do this in crappy neighborhoods. I know, I know, I could still be boxed in on the sides, but at least I can give myself a fighting chance.
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  #7  
Old 12-29-2010, 06:10 AM
Cugel Cugel is online now
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Originally Posted by DCnDC View Post
If you're a "a car length or more" person I'm curious as to the benefit of leaving yourself that much space.
When the light turns green, I can start to move off, instead of thumb twiddling as it dawns on Mr. Glacier in front that the lights have changed. No faster in the end, just slightly less stressful.
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  #8  
Old 12-29-2010, 06:29 AM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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The guideline I grew up with is close enough so (visually) the bottom of their rear whiles is touching the top of your hood. I answered 5-10 feet although, now that I think about it, I probably leave less room than that. Maybe 3-5 feet.
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  #9  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:08 AM
Mr. Kobayashi Mr. Kobayashi is offline
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Tyres 'n tarmac, I was taught.
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  #10  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:11 AM
Mops Mops is online now
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
Doesn't the rule of thumb say that you should be able to see its rear wheels?
Where I drive (mainly midsize German cities) that would be severely frowned upon, I suppose. The queue in some lanes I frequently use is long enough that, if people wasted space that way, drivers would be unable to cross the previous intersection.

I for one drive up as closely as possible without actually touching, except when on a noticeable rising grade (because some cars/drivers slip down a short space when starting on a grade), or when an large truck's tailpipe is staring at me.
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  #11  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:24 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
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Always leave enough space for people with sticks that roll backward can take off. On slippery inclines leave the whole incline empty so you can get up after the person ahead leaves or for when their vehicle just slides down the incline. Don't go through the stop sign until you know the other vehicle can stop at the icy intersecting.
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  #12  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:55 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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I refuse to measure it in feet, but it depends on road conditions mostly. Upslope in rain, more distance than flat and dry. It ranges from "as close as if we were parked" to "enough for a bike to get in between".
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  #13  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:03 AM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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Originally Posted by Erdosain View Post
I was taught in Driver's Ed to leave enough space so that you could see the bottom of the tires of the car in front of you.
I was taught to leave enough space to be able to read the license plate. But I really don't think that's enough room, having been rear-ended while stopped at a red light. Fortunately I was not behind anybody at the time; as it was a dump truck that hit me, I probably would have been killed.
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  #14  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:27 AM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Originally Posted by Harmonious Discord View Post
Always leave enough space for people with sticks that roll backward can take off. On slippery inclines leave the whole incline empty so you can get up after the person ahead leaves
In winter, when there's a light at the top of a hill I always do my best to stay on the bottom (unless I have people behind me). It's considerably easier to get started on flat ground then on a hill. If I can't stay at the bottom I do everything I can to stay in motion until the light changes.
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  #15  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:42 AM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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I voted 5 - 10 feet, but definitely on the shorter end of that. Exceptions are if I'm second at the light, and the first car might turn left, even though it doesn't have its turn signal on, or on a hill. Then It probably is closer to ten feet, which is plenty to get around the car in front of me.

My son just took Driver's Ed, and they told him the "see the tires of the car in front", but that's unnecessarily far. If everyone did that, it would just back up more traffic behind the previous light.

ETA: I suspect none of really have a good feel for how close we normally stop is when measured in feet. I bet there's a large systematic bias in the poll results.

Last edited by ZenBeam; 12-29-2010 at 08:45 AM..
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  #16  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:54 AM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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I remember a few years back walking over one of the foot bridges in Las Vegas and noticing that they seem to stop really far apart. It seemed like they were at least one car lenghth apart, if not more.

Checking Google Maps, it looks like they might not be quite as far apart as I remember, but they still seem to be spaced further apart then I've seen in most other places.
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...01219&t=h&z=20

The only thing I could think of at that time is that maybe the heat caused cars to break down more often so people prepare for it by making sure they have enough space to get around the person in front of them.
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  #17  
Old 12-29-2010, 09:05 AM
Lanzy Lanzy is offline
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I thought you all left the space so I could weave my motorcycle in and out to get to the front.
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  #18  
Old 12-29-2010, 09:21 AM
Al Bundy Al Bundy is offline
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Guessing 2-3'

It's rather automatic, but I guess about two feet is my norm. On black ice it would be more and I'd be creeping up to get there.
Strangely enough, the other day this woman pulled into the left lane long before the yellow marker. I had my turn signal on and was waiting to get up to the mark before getting in the left lane myself. When I did get there I pulled in behind this woman waiting for the long left turn light. I kept creeping up behind her with my big truck, trying to get within a millimeter of her bumper. It's hard to judge, but I chanced touching bumpers. That was my only revenge.
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  #19  
Old 12-29-2010, 11:32 AM
be bright be bright is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harmonious Discord View Post
Always leave enough space for people with sticks that roll backward can take off.
I wish more people did this.

Sometimes, if I find that a car is stopped pretty close behind me and I'm on a hill, I let myself roll back (and then inch forward) just enough so that the driver can see me and get the message.

Most drivers don't get it. They inch forward after I've stopped again. I'm especially uncomfortable with the huge pickup trucks that do this because I drive a teeny car.
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  #20  
Old 12-29-2010, 02:57 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by be bright View Post
I wish more people did this.

Sometimes, if I find that a car is stopped pretty close behind me and I'm on a hill, I let myself roll back (and then inch forward) just enough so that the driver can see me and get the message.
Why are people rolling back at all on hill starts? If you're doing it properly, you shouldn't roll back even an inch.
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  #21  
Old 12-29-2010, 03:13 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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Originally Posted by Mr. Kobayashi View Post
Tyres 'n tarmac, I was taught.
Likewise, my Dad was a driving instructor until he retired and this was the rule he taught to all his students. Personally I usually leave enough room that I can get around the car in front if it breaks down or my lane of traffic doesn't move when the lights change. I might leave a bit more if it's a truck simply because I like to able to see what is going on.

Quote:
Why are people rolling back at all on hill starts? If you're doing it properly, you shouldn't roll back even an inch.
You shouldn't but a lot of people who drive manual transmission don't use the handbrake on hill starts, it is annoying when you try to move forward when the lights change only to find the person in front of you rolling backwards. Learn to drive damnit!

Last edited by mittu; 12-29-2010 at 03:15 PM..
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  #22  
Old 12-29-2010, 03:16 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Why are people rolling back at all on hill starts? If you're doing it properly, you shouldn't roll back even an inch.
Because people don't do it properly.
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  #23  
Old 12-29-2010, 04:02 PM
Happy Fun Ball Happy Fun Ball is offline
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I leave enough that I can get out of line if necessary, probably 4-6 feet (I answered 5-10).

Once I was in line and the car in front of me died and I was stuck behind this guy for 5-10 minutes as he just sat there and cranked his starter (I offered to help him push it off the road; he just looked at me like I was a moron). I and several of the cars behind me were bumper to bumper and we could not merge into the other lane without the person in back of us reversing. It sucked. I will never go through that again, I always leave enough space for me to move. (I finally got around the guy, he is probably still there).




Random thought: what if you leave as little space as possible and someone tries to carjack you?

Last edited by Happy Fun Ball; 12-29-2010 at 04:03 PM..
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  #24  
Old 12-29-2010, 04:23 PM
kittenblue kittenblue is offline
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Use the HANDBRAKE on a hill start?I've never had to do that! And I can't imagine stopping at the bottom of a hill if the light is at the top...how far away are you stopping, a half block? I know that driving defensively is important, but some people seem to be driving paranoid. Carjack worries, rear ending worries....if there are three cars stopped behind you at a light, I think you can stop worrying about getting rear-ended and close up the space to less than a car length and let other people into the turn lane so the straight lane can move forward. The people who leave such huge gaps always seem to be oblivious to the cars around them anyhow. Otherwise they'd move up a skosh so cars trying to get out of driveways they are blocking can get out!
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  #25  
Old 12-29-2010, 04:34 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Originally Posted by kittenblue View Post
Use the HANDBRAKE on a hill start?I've never had to do that!
Pretty standard if you don't want to risk rolling back. (And usually a required skill to be demonstrated in tests in countries that have separate tests or test only on manual transmissions.) Yes, you could balance your car with your clutch and throttle wear the fuck out of it. Or maybe you're quick enough to go from brake to throttle without rolling your car back (I'm not.) On a small hill, if there's nobody close behind you, it's no problem. But live anywhere with steep grades, and it's a good skill to have. I almost always use a handbrake on anything I would properly call a "hill." Why wouldn't I? It's easy, it's safe, and there's completely no stress involved.

Last edited by pulykamell; 12-29-2010 at 04:35 PM..
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  #26  
Old 12-29-2010, 05:06 PM
DCnDC DCnDC is online now
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Originally Posted by L. G. Butts, Ph.D. View Post
Random thought: what if you leave as little space as possible and someone tries to carjack you?
Then they're not going anywhere either, are they?
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  #27  
Old 12-29-2010, 06:03 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Or maybe you're quick enough to go from brake to throttle without rolling your car back (I'm not.)
Nobody is, on a steep hill it doesn't matter how quick you are from brake to accelerator the car is going to move backwards some distance. People who try and hold the car on the clutch are just stupid in my opinion, when you are stuck in traffic and it takes you a few cycles of the lights to get through you are putting a hell of a lot of wear onto the clutch needlessly.
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  #28  
Old 12-29-2010, 06:15 PM
be bright be bright is offline
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Originally Posted by mittu View Post
Nobody is, on a steep hill it doesn't matter how quick you are from brake to accelerator the car is going to move backwards some distance.
Right. But why would you consider it bad driving when this happens? (Not talking about balancing the clutch; I think--hope--that's universally regarded as stupid.)

I go from brake to accelerator, hence rolling back a little. I only have to deal with little hills, but maybe I'll use my handbrake from now on anyway.

Last edited by be bright; 12-29-2010 at 06:16 PM..
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  #29  
Old 12-29-2010, 06:26 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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Originally Posted by be bright View Post
Right. But why would you consider it bad driving when this happens? (Not talking about balancing the clutch; I think--hope--that's universally regarded as stupid.)

I go from brake to accelerator, hence rolling back a little. I only have to deal with little hills, but maybe I'll use my handbrake from now on anyway.
It depends on how steep the hill is and how quick you are between the pedals (i.e. it ultimately depends on how far you roll back). Is it bad driving to roll backwards 6-12 inches towards a car that is moving forward? Yes, yes it is. It causes the person behind you to brake as they don't know how far you are going to roll, is your clutch slipping and you are going to continue backwards or are you just a bit slow between the pedals? The person behind has no way of knowing.

If you are on a small hill and you hardly move back at all then it's no big deal in my opinion but people still insist on doing it when the hill is very steep. I would imagine (though I am no mechanic) that it doesn't do the clutch much good to have to overcome the backwards momentum and then push the car forwards. Hand-brake starts are safer (if the clutch doesn't bite for some reason just leave the hand-brake on, no risk of an accident) and won't cause the people behind you to think evil thoughts.
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  #30  
Old 12-29-2010, 06:30 PM
be bright be bright is offline
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Originally Posted by mittu View Post
Is it bad driving to roll backwards 6-12 inches towards a car that is moving forward? Yes, yes it is.
Well, of course. Another thing I hope is regarded as universally stupid/bad.

Also, apologies to the OP for the small T/J.

I, like most others here, leave enough space so that I can see the tires of the car in front of me. Or at the very least its license plate. My car's hood is short, too, so I guess that might be about 5 feet?

Last edited by be bright; 12-29-2010 at 06:32 PM.. Reason: Actually answering the OP this time.
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  #31  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:35 PM
Magiver Magiver is offline
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I leave enough space for a new driver to roll back on a hill. No hill plus a limited turn lane and I try to tighten it up so the people behind me can make the light. Which leads to the pet peeve of people who are first in line and accelerate as if it's the green mile.

New drivers should be taught to accelerate faster when at the head of a line (after first looking for people running the light). This is because each car that follows has to accelerate slower than the car it follows in order to allow space between cars.
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  #32  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:39 PM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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Depends. Usually 10ish feet maybe (in case I'm rear ended I'd rather not be pushed into someone else). Unless the person has pissed me off by cutting me off, in which case I get right on their bumper to smile and wave in their rearview mirror.
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  #33  
Old 12-29-2010, 07:48 PM
CanvasShoes CanvasShoes is offline
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I said depends because my measure of distance wasn't on the poll. When I was learning how to drive, both driving schools I went to (the HS one and the week long one my dad paid for) stated that you should leave enough distance that you can see the tires of the car in front of you and some pavement.

The reasoning was that if someone hits you and you're too close, you can slide into the car in front of you, and then any damage becomes your responsibility. But, I grew up in Anchorage where it's winter approximately 9 months out of the year

I've been driving for over 35 years now, and it's a fully ingrained habit, even now that I live where it doesn't (usually) snow.
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  #34  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:07 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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Originally Posted by CanvasShoes View Post
you should leave enough distance that you can see the tires of the car in front of you and some pavement.
You probably shouldn't be driving on the pavement to begin with
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  #35  
Old 12-29-2010, 08:59 PM
kopek kopek is offline
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I went 5-10. In a car its more like the 5, on a bike more like the 10. I want to leave myself some room on the bike to make an emergency exit just in case that car or the one behind me does something dumb that could cause me using my Blue Cross card.
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  #36  
Old 12-29-2010, 09:12 PM
ZenBeam ZenBeam is offline
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You probably shouldn't be driving on the pavement to begin with
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  #37  
Old 12-29-2010, 09:44 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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mittu is British. In British English, pavement means sidewalk.
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  #38  
Old 12-29-2010, 11:40 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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mittu is British. In British English, pavement means sidewalk.
Sorry, didn't realise pavement meant road in American English, carry on!
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  #39  
Old 12-30-2010, 11:06 AM
cantara cantara is offline
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I selected 5-10 feet, but it is on the higher end of that. I look for the tires of the car in front, and make sure that I can see some pavement.

I am fortunate that I've been doing that for a long time. About 9 years ago, I was hit from behind while in a left turn lane at a red light. Our Pathfinder was damaged but able to limp home. He hit me at about 30kph. I think I got pushed forward about 6 feet with my foot on the brake. I ended up very close to the car in front of me. I had a bunch of cargo in the back and didn't see him coming.
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  #40  
Old 12-30-2010, 08:06 PM
Ignatz Ignatz is offline
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I leave at least one car length ("extra", not "excessive") space because my 9-month old 1967 Toyota (first brand new car ever) was hit from behind when stopped, by a big Pontiac driver who hit his gas instead of his brakes, and I was pushed into the rear end of a big Lincoln. My rear end was severely damaged and my front end was damaged enough that the car was totaled (my aunt was my insurance agent, BTW). The Lincoln suffered a slight scratch on its trunk keyhole medallion.

Also, when I commuted daily on a certain route leading to/from the east end of I-40 (at the first and second traffic signals east of Barstow, CA, 2,554 miles away), I would see rearenders, often multi-car) at least every week, resulting from cars leaving less than sufficient space at traffic signals.

It also can help to have an "escape" capability if in a crime-prone/susceptible area, like evading a potential carjacker and the adjacent lane or area is useable. Think defensive driving.
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  #41  
Old 12-30-2010, 11:45 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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The closer you are to the car in front of you, the faster they will start up and go when the light turns green. I don't know how this works, but it's the same as with an elevator button, the more times you push it, the faster the elevator comes. Some things were just never meant to be understood.
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  #42  
Old 12-31-2010, 03:42 PM
IaMoDiNaRy IaMoDiNaRy is offline
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I'm ashamed to say that I'm a chronic tailgater! I've unintentionally angered so many people I've been behind in a car that they've actually pulled over to let me pass. I honestly don't mean to do it but the next thing I know, I'm riding someone's a$$. I think it stems from my lifelong habit of being in a hurry to get to wherever I need to go, whether walking or driving.

I apologize to everyone out there for all the tailgaters like me. I hate it when someone does it to me so I've really been making a huge effort to stop doing it to others. It's totally unintentional on my part, I promise! ;-)
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  #43  
Old 12-31-2010, 04:23 PM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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5 - 10 feet I guess. I don't always leave enough room to be able to see the bottom of the rear wheels but always enough to be able to change lanes without reversing in case the car in front can't move. Being rear ended seems rare enough that it doesn't enter into my thinking.
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  #44  
Old 12-31-2010, 05:28 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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Around a couple of feet, especially in heavy traffic when there are a lot of cars behind me. It makes the line shorter so people in cross-streets can get through.

Except when the car in front of me is producing exhaust fumes.
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  #45  
Old 01-01-2011, 12:58 AM
Ibanez Ibanez is offline
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
Doesn't the rule of thumb say that you should be able to see its rear wheels?
That's what I was taught. In the winter I add about 5'.
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  #46  
Old 01-01-2011, 02:01 AM
CanvasShoes CanvasShoes is offline
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Originally Posted by mittu View Post
You probably shouldn't be driving on the pavement to begin with
Ummmmm huh? Where else would one drive? It's not all dirt roads in Alaska you know.
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  #47  
Old 01-01-2011, 02:05 AM
CanvasShoes CanvasShoes is offline
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Sorry, didn't realise pavement meant road in American English, carry on!
Heh! That's okay, picture ye olde grandma sitting in her living room, watching the Back Street Boys (didn't they grow up and become not a boy band anymore a long time ago?) and the NYC ball drop thing, quizzically staring at her computer wracking her brain for the word she was supposed to have used.

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  #48  
Old 01-01-2011, 05:49 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Originally Posted by Richard Pearse View Post
5 - 10 feet I guess. I don't always leave enough room to be able to see the bottom of the rear wheels but always enough to be able to change lanes without reversing in case the car in front can't move. Being rear ended seems rare enough that it doesn't enter into my thinking.
Took note of what I actually do tonight and I see the bottom of the wheels plus some road.
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  #49  
Old 01-01-2011, 08:52 AM
Sunspace Sunspace is online now
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Originally Posted by mittu View Post
Sorry, didn't realise pavement meant road in American English, carry on!
Well, technically, it's the hard surface, not the type of way. "The road is paved with asphalt. The sidewalk is paved with concrete. The two pavements differ."
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  #50  
Old 01-01-2011, 02:34 PM
jasonh300 jasonh300 is offline
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Originally Posted by mittu View Post
You shouldn't but a lot of people who drive manual transmission don't use the handbrake on hill starts, it is annoying when you try to move forward when the lights change only to find the person in front of you rolling backwards. Learn to drive damnit!
The first stick I owned didn't have a handbrake. It had the stupid 4th pedal parking brake that was difficult to use to get started. So I learned to engage the clutch before taking my foot off the brake. You let the clutch out until you feel it start to grab, then you take your foot off the brake and hit the accelerator.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mittu View Post
Nobody is, on a steep hill it doesn't matter how quick you are from brake to accelerator the car is going to move backwards some distance. People who try and hold the car on the clutch are just stupid in my opinion, when you are stuck in traffic and it takes you a few cycles of the lights to get through you are putting a hell of a lot of wear onto the clutch needlessly.
It should only happen for a split second and won't put any more wear on the clutch than normal start and stop driving.

I should note that I live in southeastern Louisiana, where there are NO hills. The only time I ever really had to employ this technique was at a nearby intersection that has a rise approaching railroad tracks, and occasionally on an on-ramp or bridge in heavy traffic.


ETA: What I learned in driver's ed was to leave an escape route. The car in front of you breaks down, you don't want to have to back up. The rule of thumb was to stop while you can still see the tires on the pavement, which can range from 3 feet to 12 feet depending on whether you have a really long hood or not.

Realistically, you only need about 2-3 feet to turn the front wheels and get out of your lane without backing. If it took more than that, parallel parking would be a nightmare.

Last edited by jasonh300; 01-01-2011 at 02:37 PM..
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