Simplifying your toolbox talks

What you need to know

When you rear-end someone:

  • Occupants of both vehicles are often injured
  • In heavy traffic, you may be subsequently rear-ended
  • You are almost always found to be at fault; this is true even if the driver in front of you:
    • Cut in front of you at the last minute
    • Slammed on their brakes unexpectedly

Recommended minimum following distance (seconds)

Increase your following distance during rain, snow, ice and fog.

3 seconds

Sedans and light trucks

4 seconds

Large vans and light vehicles pulling trailers

5-6 seconds

Medium/large straight trucks

6-8 seconds


Practice following at a safer distance: The National Safety Council and most state driving manuals recommend the seconds-counting method.

  • Determine the minimum number of seconds for your vehicle to stop:
    • 3 seconds for a sedan or light truck
    • 4 seconds for large vans
    • 4 seconds for light vehicles pulling trailers
    • 5 to 6 seconds for medium to large straight trucks
    • 6 to 8 seconds for tractor-trailers
  • When the vehicle in front of you passes a fixed object, such as a light post or sign, start counting seconds
  • If your vehicle passes the fixed object prior to your minimum number of seconds needed to stop, slow down and recount

Increase your following distance:

  • During inclement weather: rain, snow, ice, fog
  • When brakes and tires are worn or with heavy loads
  • When being tailgated

Why it matters

There are almost 2.2 million police-reported rear-end collisions each year. Rear-end collisions account for about 32% of all crashes, far exceeding other crash types.1 When a rear-end collision occurs, occupants of all vehicles are often injured.

The driver striking the other vehicle from behind is almost always found to be at fault. A driver is always responsible for maintaining an adequate following distance (gap) in front of them.

Confirm review of this toolbox talks article.

Resources for you

Supplement this talk: Rear-End Collisions

Construction resources: Construction Loss Control Services

[1] “Traffic Safety Facts 2019, Table 29: Crashes by First Harmful Event, DOT HS 813 141,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (August 2021).

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