Our young client was extracted from her vehicle and taken for immediate surgery. The semi-truck driver testified that the accident was to due to our client’s distraction. We proved this testimony false by reconstructing a 16-camera video surveillance from the scene of the accident.

The safe following distance for trucks is closely tied to a big rig’s braking distance capabilities.

Studies show that the average stopping distance for a loaded semi-trailer traveling at 55 mph under normal road conditions is 196 feet. This is significantly more distance needed to stop than passenger vehicles, which can stop within 133 feet at the same speed.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 5% of truck collisions occurred when the Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver was following the lead vehicle too closely, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA recommends that commercial truck drivers maintain a following distance of one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length if driving 40 mph or less. If a semi-truck driver is going faster than 40 mph, the driver should leave one additional second in following distance between himself and the vehicle in front of him.

Following distance recommendations for cars, SUVs, and other passenger vehicles are different than for big-rigs. The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) publishes its Driver’s Manual, and Chapter 7 addresses safe vehicle operation. It says a good rule of thumb for passenger vehicle drivers is to stay at least two to three seconds behind the vehicle ahead. Here’s how to calculate this: When following another car, watch for it to pass a fixed object (tree, house, intersection, etc.) and estimate how much time elapses before you pass the same object. Keep in mind, also, that sudden turns, hard braking, and lane changes can cause a vehicle ahead of you to skid, so if you’re following too closely, you could easily collide with the other motorist.


This chart from Indiana BMV shows how fast and how far a vehicle travels at 35, 55, and 70 mph.

Speed 35 mph 55 mph 70 mph
Feet traveled in one second 51.3 80.7 102.7
Traffic lanes in one second 2.6 4 5.1
Seconds to travel a football field 5.8 3.7 2.9

The BMV lists several factors that can impact braking and following distances for trucks, cars, and SUVs. These include:

  • Rain and poor visibility
  • Type and condition of tires
  • Poorly maintained or unsafe vehicle
  • Intoxicated or impaired driver
  • Slick or icy roads
  • Weight of vehicle
  • Type and condition of brakes
  • Grade of road.

Wet roadway surfaces can be dangerously slick, especially right after a rainfall, the BMV states. When you’re driving on wet roads, you’re actually traveling on a thin layer of dirt, oil, and water that can lead to hydroplaning.

Injuries Can Be Serious


Tailgating and following too closely behind the vehicle in front of you – including large trucks – can cause serious and even fatal injuries. Some of these include:

  • Head trauma and TBI
  • Back, neck, and spine injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds
  • Thermal burns
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Organ damage
  • Paralysis
  • Wrongful death.

If you’re seriously injured in a truck accident, you could be entitled to economic and non-economic damages. These include the cost of medical bills, lost wages, property damage, future medical care, and loss of future earnings potential. A skilled truck accident lawyer can fight for your rights and get the financial damages you deserve.

Why Choose Us to Represent You


Stephenson Rife has a remarkable reputation for winning truck accident lawsuits and securing the largest payouts possible. Attorney Mike Stephenson possesses more than 40 years of legal experience and has won several large personal injury claims totaling multiple millions of dollars. The legal team at Stephenson Rife includes Attorney Brady Rife, too, who takes case preparation seriously and prepares every lawsuit as though it could go to trial. Not surprisingly, we have lots of satisfied clients.

The truck accident lawyers at Stephenson Rife have won many large settlements on behalf of injured clients. Some of our largest settlements include:

  • $48.5 million in a case that involved 60 depositions in 5 different states.
  • $6.5 million for a victim with brain injury in a garbage truck accident.
  • $3.97 million for a family of a man killed in a tractor trailer crash.
  • $2 million in a case where a passenger in a vehicle was injured when struck by a delivery truck.
  • $250,000 in a case where a young woman sustained severe injuries when a semi-truck pulled out in front of her vehicle.

Our skilled attorneys know how to gather evidence, interview witnesses, analyze legal statutes and case law, and build successful legal claims.

How Far Behind a Truck Should You Follow in Indiana?

Indiana Code addresses tailgating and following other vehicles too closely at IN Code 9-21-8-14. Section 14 reads:

Following other vehicles; distance restrictions

“A person who drives a motor vehicle may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of both vehicles, the time interval between vehicles, and the condition of the highway.”

As stated above, Indiana BMV recommends two- to three-second following distances for cars and SUVs under ordinary road conditions. If there is inclement weather, road debris, heavy traffic, or other obstacles, following distances should be extended. Tailgating behind a semi-tractor trailer is especially dangerous, because if the 18-wheeler brakes suddenly, smaller cars can slide under the truck, shearing off the car’s roof.

If a truck driver misjudges braking distance, he or she can cause a jackknife, rollover, or unsecured load accident. If you witness a trucker hovering, tailgating, or traveling too closely to other vehicles, you’re encouraged to report unsafe driving to authorities.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to avoiding truck accidents. Even if you’re late for an appointment, don’t speed or follow a vehicle too closely. Leave early enough to provide plenty of time to get where you’re going and create adequate distance between yourself and other vehicles on the roadway. If you’re so close to the vehicle ahead of you on the interstate that you can read their bumper stickers, you’re probably too close.

The Indiana BMV offers these tips for safe driving to prevent accidents and avoid unsafe following distances:

  • Avoid panicked steering – Accidents can occur when drivers overcorrect their steering as a panicked reaction to an emergency. At highway speeds, excessive steering or overcorrecting can cause a driver to lose control and crash.
  • Maintain your tires – Improperly inflated or worn tires lessen a driver’s ability to maintain vehicle control, leading to collisions.
  • Load vehicles properly – You can see the maximum safe load for your vehicle and truck, as well as proper load distribution, in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
  • Know proper maneuvering – If your vehicle or truck leaves the roadway, do not turn back onto the pavement right away. Ease up on the gas to slow down, and when it’s safe to do so, gradually turn back onto the road.
  • Use caution on rural roads – Crashes are more likely to occur on undivided, two-way roads or divided roads with no barriers. These often exist in non-urban areas. If a truck or car goes off a rural road, the vehicle can roll over if it strikes a ditch or embankment or is tripped by soft soil.
  • Slow down on ramps and curves – Advisory speeds impacting on-ramps, off-ramps, curves, and turns should not be exceeded.

Following Distance FAQs


Many drivers have questions about following distances and what to expect. We’ve compiled the following list of commonly asked questions with answers.

  • The average stopping distance for a loaded semi-trailer traveling at 55 mph (in ideal conditions) is 196 feet — compared with 133 feet for a passenger vehicle.

  • Commercial truck drivers should maintain a following distance of one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length if driving 40 mph or less, and then add an additional second if driving faster than 40 miles per hour. So for example, if a 60-foot truck is traveling 55 mph, it should maintain a braking distance of 7 seconds.

  • Rear-end collisions are very common when you’re following too closely in Indiana. Head-on collisions can also happen when tailgating, because the driver behind may jerk the steering wheel dramatically to avoid the vehicle in front of them – only to veer into oncoming traffic and crash.

  • Lawsuits for following too closely in Indiana arise after a crash happens if it is shown that you breached your duty of care and caused injuries. As a driver, you can also be ticketed by police if an officer observes you following too closely. These tickets include a 6-point violation on your driver’s license.

  • Whenever there’s rain, ice, snow, or sleet, you should exponentially increase your safe following distance. Tires can slip and skid on wet or frozen pavement, causing vehicles to careen out of control and collide with large trucks and other passenger vehicles. Always leave extra distance between your vehicles and others to account for black ice and other slippery conditions.

  • Our law firm focuses on civil actions when pursuing truck accident cases, not criminal actions. Drivers who tailgate but don’t cause an accident will typically not go to jail for poor driving, though they may be ticketed by police for following too closely.

If you have additional questions about truck accidents and braking distance, feel free to call Stephenson Rife at (317) 680-2350 for a free consultation.


We Won $48.5 Million in a Truck Accident Case

In this case, we took more than 60 depositions in five different states. Because of Stephenson’s tireless advocacy, shortly before the trial was to commence, the defendants settled the case for $48.5 million.

Let Stephenson Rife Fight for You

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a truck accident, let a Stephenson Rife attorney fight for your rights. We are tough negotiators and skilled litigators, and we will not back down when confronting opposing counsel. We understand that being injured in a truck crash can turn your world upside down. Our staff is compassionate and patient, and we will walk beside you every step of the way as you go through the legal process. We will bring all resources to bear when fighting to get the compensation you deserve. To find out more about how we can help, call us for a free initial consultation at (317) 680-2350.

Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, just to name a few. Mike is a proven advocate and trial attorney. He has served as lead trial counsel in more than 100 civil jury trials, and has handled litigation in 18 states. [ Attorney Bio ]