According to Great West Casualty Company, there are four types of critical crashes: run-under crashes (which we covered in a post at the end of 2013), lane change crashes, loss of control crashes, and rear-end crashes. These four types of crashes are deemed critical because they have a high potential to cause significant injuries or fatalities to those involved.

Rear-end crashes are the most frequent and deadly type of crash on the nation’s roads.  They can occur at any time, on busy highways or small town roads; so it is critical that drivers know the correct prevention techniques, in order to protect themselves, other drivers, and their bottom line, as damages paid out for rear-end crashes often exceed insurance limits.

There are four common causes for rear-end accidents. Let’s review them all and some preventative measures that can be taken.

driver distraction - textingRear-end Crash Cause #1 – Distractions and Inattention

Common distractions faced by drivers today include texting, talking on cell phones, eating, drinking, and day dreaming. However, one factor one that is not brought up enough is mirror-checking. When there is traffic ahead of you, there is no time to look anywhere else but at the potential traffic hazards that are ahead of you. Therefore, window and mirror checks should be done in less than a second.

As an example, let say a driver is traveling at 65 MPH – that means that the truck is traveling around 100 feet per second. If a driver has a six second following distance (see cause #2) and looks away for two seconds, they have traveled 200 feet. That means if another vehicle suddenly stops and the driver looks away for more than one second, the results could be catastrophic.

keep a safe following distanceRear-end Crash Cause #2 – Improper Following Distance

Do you know how close is too close? The most effective way to determine the proper following distance is to count time in seconds. The minimum recommended following distance is 6 seconds. Our Safety Focus blog from March of 2013 goes into great detail on following distance.

In practice, the best way for a driver to observe the 6 second rule is to watch the vehicle they are following. When the front of the vehicle passes a stationary object (telephone pole, divider lines on the road, etc.), begin counting the seconds. Drivers should stop counting once the front of their vehicle has passed the stationary object. If 6 or more seconds has passed, the driver is observing the proper following distance. If not, the driver may not be able to stop if the vehicle in front has to make a sudden stop.

200069053-001Rear-end Crash Cause #3 – Incorrect Speed for Conditions

The key here is to slow it down. Drivers have three options when traveling in relation to other traffic: faster, same, or slower than the flow of traffic.

Some examples: if a driver is traveling faster than the flow, they will constantly be moving up on vehicles ahead of them, which will make maintaining the proper following distance impossible. If thy are traveling the same as the flow of traffic, it is difficult to maintain the proper following distance because cars and other vehicles on the road often pull in front of trucks. In order to maintain proper following distance in these situations, a driver would be constantly slowing down and speeding up, which would lower the vehicles fuel economy. So, the correct practice is to travel two to three miles slower than the flow of traffic, to account for other vehicles lane changes while still being able to maintain proper following distance at a consistent level.

driver perspectiveRear-end Crash Cause #4 – Unsuitable Reactions

Making the right decisions in the moment is critical; training can help, but even the most experienced drivers sometimes make the wrong decisions at the time. Delivery time pressures and other factors can affect the decision making process.

Commonly, the first reaction driver might have to traffic that is stopped ahead is to find an escape route to the left (or right). In the time it takes to look into the “open” lane, look in the mirrors to check for other vehicles entering the lane, and realize the escape route is not clear, a driver has lost precious braking time. The best advice for reaction to stopping vehicles is to take your foot off the accelerator and get on the brakes.

5 Question Pop Quiz!!!

Test your knowledge with these true or false questions to see how familiar you are with rear-end crashes (answers provided at bottom of post).

  1. A six second following rule allows time to look away from the road for two or three seconds.
  2. If you find that cars are often cutting in front of you and then braking, you are following too closely.
  3. Two truck (tractor and trailer) lengths is approximately the same as the 6 seconds following distance, when traveling at 60 MPH.
  4. The first proper reaction to traffic stopping ahead of you is to begin checking your rear view mirrors.
  5. In moderate to heavy traffic, the easiest way to keep proper following distance is to stay with the flow of traffic.



Reference: A guide to preventing rear-end crashed. Great West Casualty Company. 2010.

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How to Prevent Rear-End Crashes, with a Pop Quiz! was last modified: by