What's the 3-Second Rule?
Driving instructors teach new drivers to use the "3-second rule." The three second rule helps you avoid accidents. When driving, pick a non-moving object along the road, like a speed limit sign, a tree, or a telephone pole, and when the vehicle in front of you passes that object, start counting in your head. Count slowly "one-alligator, two-alligator, three-alligator" and note when your vehicle passes that object.
You want to be able to count to three in the time it takes your car to reach the object, as that would mean you have enough time to stop your vehicle if the car in front of you came to a sudden stop. This is a flexible standard, and this makes it helpful in many situations, like when traveling very fast on the highway, or going more slowly down city streets.
See the infographic below for more details.
Double and Triple the 3-Second Rule
The 3-second rule only applies to good, daylight driving conditions. If you are driving in heavy traffic, driving at night or in weather conditions that are not ideal, such as rain or fog, consider doubling the 3-second rule to six seconds as a safety precaution. If the weather conditions are very poor, like heavy rain or heavy fog, try tripling it to nine seconds to maintain a safe driving distance.
Stopping at Traffic Lights
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Editor's Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy. [cha 10.22.18]