Blog Post

Safe Following Distance for Trucks in Indiana

March 7, 2024 / Truck Accident FAQ

Driving on the roads requires responsible behavior, and one essential aspect of road safety is maintaining a safe following distance. Safe following distances are crucial on the road, especially for large trucks. The stopping capabilities of big rigs are significantly different from those of passenger vehicles, leading to unique considerations for truck drivers and fellow motorists alike.

What Is Tailgating?

Tailgating refers to a driver closely following another vehicle, often at a distance that would not allow sufficient reaction time to avoid a collision if the front driver brakes suddenly. It’s essential to note that accidents resulting from tailgating are not confined to high-speed scenarios on highways; they can occur even at lower speeds.

Why Tailgating Poses a Risk

Despite some drivers’ believing they can tailgate another vehicle safely, this perception is deceptive. Vehicles require more distance to come to a safe stop than many drivers realize, and this necessary stopping distance increases with the vehicle’s speed and weight. In essence, larger vehicles demand more space in front for a safe following distance.

The inherent risk in tailgating arises from its potential to cause various accidents, including jackknife, rollover, or unsecured load accidents, rear-ending another vehicle, or colliding with a vehicle in an adjacent lane.

Other prevalent errors contributing to collisions involve distracted driving, such as texting, talking on a cell phone, or diverting attention from the road for any reason. When a driver engages in tailgating and distraction, it creates a hazardous combination that significantly reduces their response time to address other risky behaviors on the road.

Braking Distances for Trucks

The safe following distance for trucks is intricately tied to their braking capabilities. Trucks, especially loaded semi-trailers, require more distance than passenger vehicles to come to a stop. At 55 mph, a fully loaded semi-trailer under normal road conditions needs 196 feet to stop, whereas a passenger vehicle can stop within 133 feet at the same speed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that 5% of truck collisions occur when the driver follows the lead vehicle too closely. To address this, the FMCSA recommends maintaining a following distance of one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length at speeds of 40 mph or less. For speeds exceeding 40 mph, an additional second should be added to the following distance.

What Is the Safe Following Distance for Trucks in Indiana?

Tailgating and maintaining a safe following distance are addressed in the Indiana Code under IN Code 9-21-8-14. Section 14 states, “A person operating a motor vehicle is prohibited from following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent . . . .” This directive considers factors such as the speed of both vehicles, the time interval between them, and the overall condition of the highway.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) further recommends maintaining a distance of two to three seconds for cars and SUVs under normal road conditions. In inclement weather, road debris, heavy traffic, or other obstacles, it is advised to extend the following distance.

Factors Influencing Braking and Following Distances

Factors influencing braking and following distances play a crucial role in determining the safety of drivers on the road. Understanding these factors is essential to mitigate the risk of accidents. Let’s explore these factors in more detail:

  1. Weather Conditions: Rain, snow, ice, or fog significantly impact braking distances. Wet or icy roads reduce traction, making it more challenging for vehicles to come to a stop quickly.
  2. Tire Type and Condition: The type and condition of tires are critical factors affecting braking and following distances. Worn-out or underinflated tires reduce a vehicle’s grip on the road, extending braking distances.
  3. Vehicle Maintenance: A vehicle’s overall condition, including its braking system, directly influences its ability to stop promptly. Regular maintenance checks, especially on a truck’s braking system, ensure optimal performance. Neglecting maintenance can lead to brake failures, significantly increasing the risk of accidents.
  4. Driver Impairment: Impaired drivers, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or fatigue, have delayed reaction times. This impairment affects a driver’s ability to gauge distances accurately and respond promptly to changing road conditions.
  5. Road Surface Conditions: The condition of the road surface, including potholes, uneven surfaces, or debris, can affect a vehicle’s ability to brake effectively.
  6. Vehicle Weight: The weight of a vehicle influences its momentum and, consequently, its braking distance. Heavier vehicles, such as trucks, require more distance than lighter vehicles to come to a complete stop.
  7. Type and Condition of Brakes: The type and condition of a vehicle’s braking system directly impact its braking efficiency. Well-maintained and high-quality brakes contribute to shorter stopping distances. Regular inspections and timely brake component replacement are essential for optimal brake performance.
  8. Grade of Road: The incline or decline of the road, known as the grade, affects a vehicle’s braking capabilities. Going downhill increases the braking distance as gravity adds momentum to the vehicle.

Injuries Resulting from Tailgating

Injuries resulting from tailgating can be severe and life-altering, affecting victims physically, emotionally, and financially. Here’s a closer look at the types of injuries that can result from tailgating accidents:

  1. Head Trauma and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI): Head injuries are common in rear-end collisions, where the force can cause the head to jerk forward suddenly. This can result in concussions, contusions, and more severe traumatic brain injuries. TBIs can affect cognitive function, memory, and overall quality of life.
  2. Back, Neck, and Spine Injuries: The force generated in a tailgating collision can lead to whiplash, herniated discs, and spinal cord injuries. These injuries may result in chronic pain, limited mobility, and, in severe cases, paralysis.
  3. Internal Bleeding: The impact of a collision, particularly at high speeds, can cause internal injuries and bleeding. Internal bleeding may not be immediately apparent, making it a potentially life-threatening complication that requires prompt medical attention.
  4. Broken Bones: The force of a collision can cause fractures and breaks in various bones, depending on the impact. Broken limbs, ribs, and facial fractures are not uncommon in tailgating accidents.
  5. Cuts, Lacerations, and Puncture Wounds: Flying debris, shattered glass, or sharp objects inside the vehicle can cause cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds. These injuries may require stitches and surgeries, resulting in long-term scarring.
  6. Thermal Burns: In cases where the collision leads to a fire or explosion, thermal burns can occur. Burns can be not only physically painful but also emotionally distressing, often requiring extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation.
  7. Scarring and Disfigurement: Serious injuries can leave lasting scars and disfigurements, impacting a person’s appearance and self-esteem. Coping with these changes can be emotionally challenging and may necessitate ongoing psychological support.
  8. Organ Damage: The force of an accident can lead to internal organ injuries, such as damage to the liver, spleen, or kidneys.
  9. Paralysis: Severe spinal cord injuries resulting from tailgating accidents can lead to paralysis. This life-altering condition necessitates extensive medical care, rehabilitation, and often lifelong adjustments to accommodate the new physical limitations.
  10. Wrongful Death: In the most tragic cases, tailgating accidents can result in fatalities. Families may suffer the devastating loss of a loved one, and pursuing a wrongful death claim may be necessary to seek justice and financial compensation.

How Stephenson Rife Can Help With Your Truck Accident Case

When navigating the complexities of a truck accident case, enlisting the services of a seasoned legal team is crucial to ensure a favorable outcome. Stephenson Rife, a distinguished law firm with a proven track record, can help you pursue justice after a truck accident. Here’s how we can help you build a strong case.

  1. Comprehensive Investigation: In truck accident cases, gathering evidence promptly is crucial. Our attorneys take a meticulous approach to investigation, leaving no stone unturned in collecting evidence. This may include analyzing accident reports; obtaining witness statements; and examining truck maintenance records, driver logs, black box data, and other relevant information that can strengthen your case. Such thoroughness ensures a comprehensive understanding of the accident’s circumstances, strengthening your position in court.
  2. Identifying Liable Parties: Truck accidents often involve multiple parties, such as the trucking company, the truck driver, maintenance contractors, or manufacturers. Our legal team excels at identifying all potentially liable parties and holding them accountable. By casting a wide net in determining responsibility, we maximize the opportunities for securing compensation for our clients.
  3. Access to Resources and Experts: Successfully litigating a truck accident case often requires collaboration with experts, including accident reconstruction specialists, medical professionals, and economists. We have established a network of experts who can provide valuable insights and testimony to support your case. This resource access enhances our ability to build a comprehensive and persuasive argument for our clients.
  4. Skilled Negotiation and Litigation: We are known for our adept negotiation skills, often securing favorable client settlements without needing protracted courtroom battles. However, our trial attorneys are prepared to vigorously advocate for your rights in court when litigation becomes necessary. Our courtroom experience and strategic approach ensure that your case is presented effectively, increasing the chance of success.

Seek Authoritative Guidance From Stephenson Rife Today

If you have been in a truck accident, seeking legal representation from our experienced truck accident lawyers can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us at (317) 680-2350 for a free consultation.

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 ]

Featured Posts

  • What to Do if You've Been Rear-Ended by a Semi-Truck in IndianaWhat to Do if You’ve Been Rear-Ended by a Semi-Truck in Indiana
    In Truck Accidents
    Being in a car accident is scary enough. But the aftermath can become overwhelming when the other vehicle involved is a massive semi-truck weighing up to 80,000 pounds. If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a truck accident in Indiana, we will help you understand the steps to take immediately following the crash. Seek Medical Attention Immediately In the initial moments after a truck accident, adrenaline will likely […]
  • Understanding Truck Jackknifing and How to Prevent ItUnderstanding Truck Jackknifing and How to Prevent It
    In Truck Accidents
    Truck jackknifing is a term that sends shivers down the spine of anyone familiar with the hazards of the road. This dangerous phenomenon occurs when a truck’s trailer swings out to the side, resembling the angle of a folding knife. Understanding the causes and implementing preventive measures is crucial for truck drivers, fleet operators, and every road user. Whether you’re a trucking company, driver, or an affected party, […]
  • Do I Need a Lawyer After a T-bone Truck Accident?Do I Need a Lawyer After a T-bone Truck Accident?
    In Truck Accidents
    If you have been involved in a severe T-bone collision with a commercial truck, having an experienced truck accident lawyer on your side is vital. Suffering extensive injuries in a truck crash can derail your life in many ways. You may rack up enormous medical bills, lose income from missed work, and battle pain and emotional trauma. This article will explain what a T-bone accident is. We’ll cover the potential damages you may […]