While motorcycles may be better at making sudden turns or performing agile swerves to avoid potential road hazards, they need just as much time to come to a stop as the cars around them. In order to brake in time to avoid a crash, both bikers and drivers should leave adequate distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them.
In most cases, bikers require at least two seconds of following distance to stop—or swerve—if the driver ahead of him brakes suddenly. Any less than two seconds may be considered following too closely, also called tailgating, and can open you up to both injury and potential legal action if you rear-end the vehicle ahead of you.
How to Maintain a Minimum Safe Following Distance on a Motorcycle
- Pick out a marker. When you are riding behind another vehicle, choose a landmark at the side of the road, such as a signpost or mile marker. Count off the seconds between the rear bumper of the car ahead and the front wheel of your bike as it passes the landmark.
- Adjust. If you pass the landmark before you count to two, slow down to increase your following distance.
- Maintain. Traffic constantly shifts on the highway, so repeat this test every few minutes to maintain a proper space cushion. If drivers around you attempt to cut into your following distance, build it back up as soon as possible by braking or changing lanes.
Remember: two seconds is the minimum amount of space a biker should leave in front of his motorcycle. If your bike is larger or heavier than usual, is not in the best condition, or needs longer to brake, aim for three or four seconds of distance. If the weather is bad or the road is full of potholes and loose gravel, you may want to increase your distance even further. Maintain plenty of space ahead—even if traffic comes to a stop. You never know if you will need to move out of the way for speeding drivers behind you.
Want to read more local information and safety tips? Click the link on this page to begin reading our attorney James Roswold’s free book, KC Biker Bible.