Following Distance & Positioning

New drivers need more time make decisions. One of the best ways you can help yourself is by always keeping a good following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front. The further back you stay the more you’ll be able to see past it. Don’t hang onto someone’s rear; you need to be looking well beyond the vehicle in front of you to get an idea of what may be happening ahead.

Following at a safe distance is even more important when following a large vehicle; the bigger it is, the more it will block your view.

You also need to take into account the weather conditions. In the wet, the distance it takes you to stop can be doubled, in icy conditions this can be up to ten times the distance. It follows then that in bad weather your following distance should also be much greater.

In the first image driver A has been following the next car too closely; they can’t see the cyclist which the other driver is about to pull out to pass. In the second image driver A has been keeping further back; they can now see the cyclist and they already know what the other driver is about to do.

following distance


When following other vehicles you should not always rely on using the way they position their car as a guide – they may be in the wrong place themselves.

A prime and common example of this is when queuing at traffic lights. Sometimes if the first driver in line is out of position, the next driver, rather than pulling into a better position will simply copy them. The third driver does the same and we end up with a situation like the one in the next image. Can you see what’s wrong here?


In following each other like sheep, the third driver ends up partially blocking the cycle lane. The fourth driver thinks for themselves and pulls up in the correct position.

In the section in moving off and stopping, your normal driving position was recommended to be about half a metre from the kerb. This is a guide however, and you do need to adjust this to suit the situation.
If you were driving along the road in the above image for example, you would need to keep quite a bit further away from the kerb to avoid the cycle lane. Do also bear in mind that if your wheels are near to the white line, your door mirror will be hanging over it, and door mirrors can be a real hazard to cyclists

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