When you are driving, you want to create what is known as a space cushion between you and the other vehicles around you. This simply means that you create a safe distance in the front, side, and rear of your vehicle from others. A space cushion can also be referred to as a buffer zone, positioning, or a cushion length.
Here are some defensive driving tips to consider when you create a space cushion:
The Three Basic Elements of Driving
When you maintain a safe distance from another vehicle, you must take into consideration the following elements of driving:
- The consistent control of your speed
- Positioning of your vehicle in each lane
- Communication with other drivers via car lights and signals
All three of these factors are integral to creating a space cushion throughout your driving time. Circumstances change from moment to moment and you, as a defensive driver, must anticipate those changes and still maintain a safe distance from the other vehicles. Also, don’t forget: signal to other drivers when you have made a decision to enter their lane.
Front End Space Cushions
The objective of a front-end space cushion between you and other vehicles is for you to maintain a comfortable view of everything you are observing straight ahead as you drive. This means being able to see not only the entire back of the car directly in front of you all the way down to the tires but to also be able to view the cars on both sides of yours that are in front of you in any other lanes.
On a three-lane road, the best lane for optimal opportunity to create a safe space cushion between all vehicles in the center lane. This gives a maximum view of the entire road if you maintain at least a 3-5 second space cushion (or half a car length) between you and the car in front of you.
Increased Front-End Cushion Factors
Always treat vehicles other than cars in a slightly different manner when creating a space cushion. Their stop time and how they react to other vehicles is much different than a car.
Motorcycles should be followed at no less than a 10-second delay. Long trailers, especially with abundant loads, should be followed at a distance of 15 seconds or more and safely passed when an opportunity presents itself.
Side Vehicle Considerations
Always be aware of what another driver’s blind spot is when you are creating a space cushion between you and the vehicle next to you. If the front of your vehicle is nearly parallel to the other vehicle’s rear tire, then you are in their blind spot.
If you are in another driver’s blind spot, more than likely does not see you and could quickly change lanes, creating a collision that would probably be your fault if they hit you. Decelerate and drive at least 3-5 seconds from that driver’s back wheel, or speed up just enough to go past the other vehicle and create a complete space cushion on that side.
Back-End Space Cushions
This is the space cushion that we usually have no control over creating. That’s because the driver behind you is in control of their own speed and not you. This is not a problem unless the person is tailgating you. Do not slam on your brakes to alert them to “back off.” It may incite road rage.
Simply find an opportunity to either pull to the side of the road to let them pass or simply change lanes so they can go by and you can create a space cushion all around your vehicle once again.