How Closely Should You Follow Another Car in Oregon?

Life changed a lot during the pandemic. Many people found themselves staying home more than ever before. Parents with school-aged children had online learning to address. Many adults found themselves working remotely. We had more things delivered to our homes to reduce exposure to the outside world. These and other behaviors led to greatly reduced traffic on the roads.

There are still admittedly many restrictions and limitations present in our daily lives. However, we have definitely taken some important steps down the path to normalcy. That includes getting out again, which, of course, leads to increased traffic volume on our roadways. Therefore, it is a good time for a refresher on an important driving consideration. In this article, we will discuss how closely you can safely follow another motor vehicle.

The Effects of the Pandemic on Driving

According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in April 2020 personal car trips decreased 45 percent as many people elected (or were required) to stay home. When considering a combination of all modes of transportation, trips decreased 40 percent. (An interesting side effect reported by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is that vehicle emissions also dropped approximately 50 percent.) However, traffic levels are now much closer to those seen in 2019.

The Dangers of Following Another Vehicle Too Closely (Tailgating)

Have you ever looked in your rear-view mirror only to find another car following so closely that it makes you uncomfortable? Probably so. And there’s a good reason for your discomfort - according to the Oregon Department of Transportation, tailgating (PDF) is the number one cause of traffic accidents in the state. Obviously, if the car in front has to stop suddenly, a tailgating driver often does not have sufficient time to also stop, resulting in a rear-end collision. Thus, refraining from tailgating is a matter of safety.

However, for those drivers who like to tailgate, there’s a reason beyond safety not to do it. Following too closely is a traffic offense under Oregon law. To enforce this law and protect citizens on the road, some law enforcement personnel have advanced laser technology which allows them to determine if one motor vehicle is following another too closely.

What Is a Safe Distance to Follow Another Vehicle?

The Oregon Driver Manual (PDF) defines a safe following distance as 2-4 seconds. However, at speeds over 30 miles per hour, it should be 4 seconds. This allows you to see the road better and to react to things that happen in front of you. You can measure this by watching when the leading car’s rear bumper passes a fixed object. Then, count the seconds until your front bumper reaches the same fixed object.

Keep in mind that this general rule changes with conditions as they exist at the time. In fact, Oregon Revised Statutes Section 811.485 states in part that a driver commits the offense of following too closely by following another vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon, and condition of, the highway.” For example, a driver will need to leave more space in snow and rain and at higher speeds. 

Accidents Resulting from Following Too Closely

If a driver follows too closely and causes an accident, that driver can be held civilly liable for damages. A victim injured by the driver’s negligence can recover for medical and hospital bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all the other types of damages recoverable in personal injury actions.

Call with Questions

If you have been injured in a car accident because someone was following too closely and negligently caused a crash, you are entitled to be compensated and made whole. We know you will have many questions about the law and your rights - we are here to answer them. Just give us a call for a free consultation. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are committed to holding wrongdoers accountable for their negligence. It is the only way to keep society safe for all of us.


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