Applying social distancing to road safety

By Ronak Shah

This year, we have all become very familiar with the phrase ‘social distancing’. When we talk about social distancing in relation to COVID-19, we are referring to the process of maintaining a physical distance between people to reduce the number of times that we come into close contact with each other.  

Although this concept is designed to stop infection spread, it can also be applied to road safety. Just as you want to avoid coming in contact with others during a pandemic, you should also be focused on keeping your vehicle at distance on the road. Social distancing is one of the most effective ways in which you can minimise the risk of a road accident.

Social distancing on the road

So what do we mean by social distancing on the road? We all know the feeling of having a car behind you that is a little too close for comfort. Maybe you are also guilty of crawling a little too close to the car in front. By not leaving enough space between vehicles, you are significantly increasing your risk of an accident. 

The reason for this is that we always need to allow enough time to brake. Road accidents that occur when cars are travelling in the same direction account for 30% of reported crashes. If the car ahead is required to suddenly brake, you also need to leave yourself enough time to brake. At Corporate Driver Training Australia, we refer to the time window needed to achieve social distancing on the road as ‘crash avoidance space’.

social distancing on the road

Crash avoidance space

At our low-risk driving courses, we teach attendees how to use ‘crash avoidance space’ whenever they drive. A crash avoidance space is a window of time that you need to allow between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead so that you can brake safely. It is dependent on the speed you are travelling and whether you are driving in adverse conditions. 

The numbers below reflect how many seconds you need to allow depending on the speed that you are travelling. If you are driving on inner-city roads at 40kph for example, you will need to allow 1.5 seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. This compares to travelling on a freeway at 100 kph where a 3-second crash avoidance space is required. If driving in adverse conditions such as wet roads or uneven surfaces, one second needs to be added to the below guidelines.

Low-risk drivers

COVID-19 restrictions won’t be in place forever, however, social distancing on the roads is an important skill that can always be used to ensure that you are minimising the risk of a road accident. A low-risk driver will make a habit of knowing their crash avoidance space numbers and practising social distancing on the road. To learn more about low risk driving, click here.

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