Skip navigation
Skip navigation
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser.

Nearly half of drivers in the UK (48%) admit they do not keep a two-second gap between them and the vehicle in front on motorways, according to research released today.

More disturbingly, the survey by Brake, the road safety charity, and Green Flag Motoring Assistance, found that nearly one-in-four drivers (24%) said they ignored the ‘two-second rule’ on motorways at least once a week.

Crashes on motorways happen at high speeds and often involve several vehicles. Failure to leave adequate space between the vehicle in front can result in multiple deaths or serious injuries in multiple pile-ups.

The charity warns that leaving a two-second gap is only enough in dry weather. Drivers must leave at least four seconds or more if the weather is wet or icy because in slippery conditions the braking distance can increase significantly.

Brake is calling for a return of the old Government campaign, which ran with the strapline: ‘Only a fool breaks the two second rule’ and says there needs to be a clear educational message given to drivers about the consequences of driving too close to the vehicle in front, as drivers do not seem to be aware of the dangers.

Latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that on average five people a week are killed on UK motorways, and more than 50 people a week are seriously injured.1

It is important to leave a significant gap to provide time for thinking and braking in an emergency. Thinking distance increases in direct proportion to speed while braking distance increases in proportion to the speed squared.2 This means that stopping distances can increase significantly for only small increases in speed. The laws of physics apply no matter how experienced a driver you are, or how quick you react.

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of Brake, the road safety charity, says: “By not keeping a safe distance on motorways lives are being needlessly put at risk. Leaving a two second gap is your braking space in an emergency. Failure to do this can have catastrophic results. Crashes on motorways happen at high speeds and often include several vehicles causing multiple deaths and injuries. Drivers need to be aware of the potentially lethal consequences of not holding back from the vehicle in front. It is a simple measure to take but can mean the difference between life and death.”

Melanie Denny from Green Flag says: “In our rush to get from A to B, we seem to have forgotten the two-second rule and why it was so useful in reminding us of the minimum distance required to stop safely before hitting the car in front. Perhaps now’s the time to revive the saying and for the millions of responsible drivers out there to take the lead and show an example to others on the motorways.”

Brake’s advice for motorway driving:

· Always leave a two second gap between yourself and the vehicle in front

· In wet or icy conditions leave at least four seconds, or more if the weather is very bad

· In poor visibility never hang on to the tail lights of the vehicle in front. You will be too close for safety and not reading the road for yourself.

Brake, with Green Flag Motoring Assistance’s support, is forwarding this report to Government with the following recommendations for action by the Department for Transport and the Home Office to tackle driving too close to the vehicle in front

· Make more funding available for more high-profile, peak-time, year-round advertising on television and radio about the risks of driving too close. Advertising needs to be targeted and it needs to be educational. This should include specific campaigns on the dangers of not keeping a safe distance on motorways and other roads;

· Encourage vehicle manufacturers to introduce digital speedometers so that drivers are always aware of their exact speed;

· Make all driving bans a minimum period (e.g. 6-12 months) to ensure they are an effective enforcement measure;

Remove restrictions on speed camera location that currently require four people to have been killed or seriously injured at that location before a camera can be installed – this restriction runs counter to the police and local authority duty of care to take all reasonable action to protect citizens from harm caused by criminal behaviour.

To interview Mary Williams OBE contact Brake’s campaign officer, Simon Collister, on 01484 559909, or out of hours on 07971 612857

Notes to editors:
1 Road Casualties Great Britain 2002: Annual Report (Department for Transport, 2003)

2 Leaflet T/INF/648 (Department for Transport 2001) If you increase your speed by 50% from 20mph to 30mph then thinking distance increases by 50% from six to nine metres. But braking distance increases by 134% from six to 14 metres. This means that your total stopping distance almost doubles from 12 to 23 metres.

The statistics in this report are based on a survey of 850 drivers and motorbike riders, carried out by Brake’s volunteers, from February to April 2004. The volunteers questioned a cross-section of drivers and riders in a variety of locations and included drivers and riders of all types of vehicle who drove mainly for work as well as those who drove mainly in their free time.

Brake is a national road safety charity funded by Government and individual donations. Brake exists to stop the 3,400 deaths and 41,000 serious injuries that occur on Britain’s roads every year and to ensure that appropriate care is available for people traumatised by road crashes. Brake produces educational road safety literature and runs events including Road Safety Week (8-14 November 2004).

Green Flag Motoring Assistance provides roadside rescue and recovery to almost 5m customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Its incident management centre in Leeds handles around 1m calls each year. Green Flag is a sponsor of Road Safety Week and supports ongoing road safety campaigns.

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Green Flag Group in the following categories: Men's Interest, Health, Motoring, Transport & Logistics, for more information visit