Saturday, August 15, 2009

Breathing Room...

While I was out with the kids and Mrs. Smith a while back, she asked me why I stop so far back from the car in front of me when I'm at a traffic light.

Really, I leave like one or two car lengths between the front of my vehicle and the rear of the car in front of me, even when I'm in a non-police vehicle. Just a little breathing room.

As I explained to her, I like to leave room in front of me to be able to get around the car ahead if I need to. If I get a call for Code 3 cover, if I start taking rocks and bottles, if someone decides to start shooting, all of these are good reasons to be hasty about getting around that vehicle that's blocking my way.

But why do I do this in my own vehicles? Because the same stuff could happen off duty.

It's habit. Good or bad, some habits are difficult to break.

Or maybe I just don't want to break some habits...

16 comments:

Ron said...

I leave room in front then pay attention behind me. If the vehicle behind is going fast and has trouble stopping in time, I already have a cushion of space to go up, or can go around. Can't do that if you are already chewing on the back bumper of the one in front of you!

The Rookie said...

My friends asked me the same thing, since I didn't start doing it until after my EVOC training. I hadn't thought about something serious starting up and needing to move in a hurry

Jaguar said...

I do this in my personal vehicle too. There's never a shortage of idiots who will give you a little "toot" in hopes that you'll move up, like being 30 feet closer to the intersection will cut five minutes off their drive time.

The Bus Driver said...

I do something similar at railroad tracks. Because both of my jobs require me to stop at railroad tracks (regardless of the bells, whistles, and stop arms), I've just gotten in the habit of simply stopping at every railroad track. My philosophy is, you never know when or if that bell, whistle, stop arm will fail to come down and a train hit you.

Texas Ghostrider said...

I also do this even on the bike or should I say especially on the bike. When I was asked i said to check out all the hot chicks and all the stupid people rolling dirty....

Sandra G. said...

Same here...I always try to leave room in front of my vehicle, regardless if I'm on or off duty.

The only problem is that driving in a 'big' city means I run into some pretty extreme driving on occasion and find myself 'chewing on the guys bumper' in front of me after I've been forced to hammer on the brakes.

And giving yourself room in case the crap hits the fan? Always a good idea. A few years ago my partner and I were boxed in at a traffic light after going after a vehicle...not a good feeling. Everything ended up okay, but it was a bad spot to be in.

Beat And Release said...

Heck, I learned that in S. Florida at the tender age of sixteen. As you can probably tell by that statement, I didn't grow up in a resort community down there.

When I have a rookie, or any other officer behind the wheel, they catch a hell of a berating when they pull up window to window with the cars on either side.

Mad Jack said...

I was taught to leave space between cars when I first learned to drive. As you and others point out, you can get out of harm's way if you have the space. My only gripe is that the morons I have to share the road with believe I left that space just for them to pull into. I've actually had people pass me in a red light line and pull into the space ahead of me.

And then there was the time Main Lady and I were coming home from the club about midnight or later. I'm at a red light, and when I get the green I wait for a few seconds just because. That night a guy ran the light and blew right through the intersection in front of me - and a black and white in the opposite lane. The red light runner knew what he did, saw the cop and pulled up sharply to wait. Then, seeing that the cop was stuck between two cars in line for the light, he put the hammer down and booked. I don't know if he got away or not, but he sure had a good head start.

As for me, if I hadn't waited that extra couple seconds I'd have been T-boned and likely busted up pretty good.

Front Porch Society said...

For me...I tend to get rear-ended a lot. Just ask my poor insurance agent! SO, I always leave enough room so that when I am hit from behind, I don't domino affect into the car in front of me. :)

*Goddess* said...

I've always kept a nice, healthy distance between myself and the car in front of me, and after watching Female Offspring #1 plow into the back of an SUV while driving my car, I keep an even BIGGER distance. What is it about the human spirit that makes you believe those brakes are going to catch at the very last second? Sigh. They don't.

BTW, FPS brought up something I've always wondered about. If you are hit from behind and that pushes your car and causes you to crash into the car in front of you, are you responsible for that or is the guy that hit you responsible for both accidents?

Front Porch Society said...

In my state, the person who is in the middle is held responsible for hitting the vehicle in front of them because you did not stop and allow enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Unless, the vehicle that hit you was going SO fast that no matter what distance you may have been stopped at, you would hit the car in front of you. That is where the accident scene investigators come in to play with all their calculations.

Hope this answers your question. :)

*Goddess* said...

Yes, it does, thanks!

Front Porch Society said...

You are very welcome. :)

the observer said...

Just found the blog...not in law enforcement, former EMT, now ER RN. I always leave at least one car length between me and a passing train. I have been rearended (by a moron looking at his pager, could see it in my rear view) and even tho I had my foot on the brake (manual transmission!)and his small truck shoved my small car 10 feet down the road. I certainly do not want to meet a train that way!

Black Ice said...

Ron got it in one.

I had a girlfriend (notorious side-seat driver) who always whined and complained about my usual habit of starting to slow down my 4wheeler at the same distance I'd begin stopping a semi. "Blahblahblahwhy do you always stop so far baaaack?"

Then, one fine day, we were out on a four-lane rural highway and traffic was stopped for I forget what reason. I braked early and she started her whining...

...and the hellish SCREECH of tires behind us caused us both to look back at an overloaded pickup with a contractor trailer(also overloaded) slewing all over the road in a desperate attempt to avoid creaming us. I switched my foot to the loud pedal and pulled up to the last car in line, giving the pickup driver time to stop.

Then I turned to my GF and gave her a very pointed look.

She kept her mouth shut from then on...at least regarding my driving. ;)

P said...

Actually, this is pretty good advice for those of us non-cops. I'm a single woman, living alone, and am always alone when I drive. I don't ever want to be "trapped," so this is something I will try to remember.

One more tip: I always back my car into my parking space, so if ever I'm approached by someone I don't know, I can pull out. Plus, if my car is dead, it's easier to get it jump-started or towed.