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Ask the Chief: Drive safer; use the Three-Second Rule

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman

"Ask The Chief" allows readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs and the department in general.

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Q: I was involved in a fender bender because the person behind me was following too close, what could I have done to avoid the collision?

A: I'm sorry to hear about your crash. The Minnesota Driver's Manual recommends if the vehicle behind you is following too closely, slow down slightly and allow it to pass.

What I personally do is tap my brakes and that usually alerts the driver behind me that he/she is too close. If the driver is a real speedster and the road permits, I will pull over and let the person pass me.

Let's take a moment to review the law, Minnesota State Statute 169.18 Sub.8a states, following a vehicle too closely.

a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the conditions of the highway.

b) The driver of any motor vehicle drawing another vehicle, or the driver of any motor truck or bus, when traveling upon a roadway outside of a business or residence district, shall not follow within 500 feet of another vehicle. The provisions of this paragraph shall not be construed to prevent overtaking and passing nor shall the same apply upon any lane specially designated for use by motor trucks.

c) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow within 500 feet of an authorized emergency vehicle that is traveling in response to an emergency. (NOTE: An average city block is approximately 300 feet.)

Remember, if you rear-end someone, you will probably get a citation, as statutes require that you drive for the conditions of the road, therefore if the vehicle in front of you suddenly stops, you should have enough distance to stop without hitting the vehicle ahead of you.

Since we can only control what goes on in our vehicle let's put into practice the Three-second Rule. Applying the rule is a way to help keep a safe distance between your car and the vehicle ahead of you.

When the vehicle ahead of you passes the reference point, begin counting: "One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three." If you pass the reference point before you are through counting, you are following too closely. Gradually slow down until you have reached a safe following distance and speed.

When road conditions are poor, or if you are driving a vehicle that is longer than the standard length, increase your following distance to a four- or five-second count. (Remember, this is for ideal road conditions; if the road is icy or wet, you will need to allow for more time!)


1. Minnesota Driver's Manual

2. Minnesota State Statues