What Is the 12 Second Rule in Driving?

by Kurt Erickson
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Anyone operating a motor vehicle -- whether its a car, truck or motorcycle -- should be vigilant about watching for upcoming traffic hazards. The 12-second rule is designed to remind motorists that they need room to slow down, stop or take evasive action if something happens on the road in front of them. By watching for possible road hazards 12 seconds ahead, drivers will have more of a chance to avoid a collision.

How It Works

While driving, find an object in the distance. This could be an old barn, a billboard or an exit ramp. Wait until a vehicle in front of your vehicle passes the object. Begin counting. If your vehicle passes the object before you have counted to 12, you may not be giving yourself enough time to react to an adverse driving situation.

Different Practices

Traffic safety experts say the 12-second rule is best employed during bad weather or heavy traffic. A slightly shorter time period -- such as 8 seconds -- might work just as well during daytime driving on dry roads with little traffic.

Legal Concerns

Many collisions are caused by people not looking far enough up the road to determine they need to stop or slow down. Using the 12-second rule can help avoid vehicle damage and legal problems from accidents. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, like many states, suggests looking ahead even further -- perhaps 20 or 30 seconds -- when driving at highway speeds or during inclement weather.

Avoiding Tailgaters

If someone behind you isn't following the 12-second rule when applicable, it may be best to move to a different lane of the highway or pull to the side of the road in order to let the other driver pass.

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