Resource:Roll Call Reminder - Following Distance

Dear Department Leader, 

The following roll call training touches upon a defensive driving tactic that quite often is overlooked, following behind another vehicle too closely, or tailgating. Roll Call Reminders such as this are intended to generate a dialogue between supervisors and patrol officers while providing a framework for regular agenda items during staff meetings. The following page will guide you and your officers in discussing officer safety when following other vehicles too closely. Please note that this message only aims to support your safe driving efforts and is not meant to replace your current driver safety strategies.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, following too closely is when one vehicle is following another vehicle so closely that, even if the following driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead, he or she could not avoid a collision if the driver in front brakes suddenly.

Following too closely increases the likelihood that an officer will rear-end the vehicle in front of them.  When an officer follows too closely to another vehicle, it can also lead to erratic driving behavior or even road rage on the part of the other driver, which also increases the possibility of a collision.  

  • Here are a few guidelines for maintaining safe following distances with other vehicles on the road: 
  • Maintain 3 seconds of separation for speeds between 35 and 55 mph in ideal driving conditions (good road surface, good weather, light traffic, etc.).  
  • Maintain 4 seconds of separation for speeds between 55 and 75 mph, OR during rain, on wet pavement, or in heavy traffic.  
  • Maintain 7 to 8 seconds of separation on icy or snow-covered roads.


Rear-end crashes are far too common, and the main cause is drivers following too closely.  It is crucial that officers are aware of other vehicles on the road and the traffic conditions.  Maintaining an adequate cushion of space to engage the brakes if the car ahead stops suddenly is crucial in reducing the chances of an accident caused by following too closely.


Roll Call Reminder

This Roll Call Reminder discusses the hazards of following too closely behind other vehicles.  The intent is to have a department leader or designated team member read the reminder aloud to the team.  After hearing the message, work together to answer and respond to the questions that follow.  To conclude the conversation, it is important that you understand the hazards you face and could create when it comes to tailgating, and commit to bearing these hazards in mind while operating a patrol vehicle. 

Welcome Law Enforcement Officers,

Failure to maintain a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front of you can lead to either a near miss or a collision.  A near miss is one of those heart-pounding situations when you realize just how close you came to a collision.  Following distance should include enough space for you to react to something and also enough space for braking to bring the vehicle to a stop.  

While responding to calls for service, or in pursuit of an offender trying to speed away, it is important to maintain a safe distance between the police car and other vehicles.  Moving your foot from the accelerator to the brake only takes a tenth of a second, but remember that a car cannot stop on a dime.  The distance your vehicle will travel before it stops depends on some factors, such as the speed the car is going, the condition of the brakes and tires, and the condition of the road surface.  As your driving speed increases, the distance from the car ahead of you should increase as well.  

  • What are some factors that may influence your decision to follow too closely?
  • What are some potential outcomes of following a vehicle too closely?
  • How can you work to maintain a safe following distance while operating a squad car?


Rear-end collisions are far too common, and a main cause is drivers following too closely.  It is crucial that you maintain a constant state of awareness about vehicles on the road and traffic conditions.  Pay attention to the distance between your vehicle and other vehicles on the roadway.   Maintain a safe following distance between your vehicle and other vehicles; and, recognizing that the greater the speed, the more distance you need to keep between your patrol car and other vehicles.


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (n.d.). CMV driving tips: Following too closely. Retrieved from