Driving Safely Behind a Tractor

What’s a Safe Distance to Follow Behind a Semi?

Did you know that the average stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer moving at 55 mph (in ideal conditions) is about 200 feet? Compare that with around 130 feet for a passenger vehicle. That 70-foot difference is significant and could be the difference between life and death or severe injuries. This means that a truck takes more time to stop, which could lead to a serious rear-end collision if you’re following too closely.

What Does “Following Too Closely” Mean?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that “following too closely” can be defined as, “situations in which one vehicle is following another vehicle so closely that even if the following driver is attentive to the actions of the vehicle ahead he/she could not avoid a collision in the circumstance when the driver in front brakes suddenly.”

So, even if you’re driving conscientiously and are extremely observant, if you’re too close to the back of a semi, you won’t be able to avoid a collision.

Georgia Statute (O.C.G.A.) § 40-6-49(a) states, “[t]he driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

What is a Blind Spot?

Many semi accidents with passenger vehicles occur because Georgia motorists who share the road with these big rigs aren’t aware of the truck’s blind spots.

Blind spots are the areas around a semi where the truck driver can’t see with his or her side mirrors. A big rig doesn’t have a rear-view mirror, so truck drivers can’t see if people are tailgating right behind them. If a semi stops quickly, tailgaters can easily rear-end the semi and suffer severe injuries or even death.

Blind spots are caused by the tractor-trailer’s length and height. Because semi trucks are big, their drivers can’t see certain parts near their vehicles and the roadway. The average truck in the roads in Georgia is over 70 feet long, 13½ feet tall, and 8½ feet wide.

One of a truck’s blind spots or “no-zones” is directly behind the semi. A motorist should stay at least 30 feet back. You can’t see anything in front of the semi if you’re following too closely— making it nearly impossible to anticipate anything in the road that might cause the truck driver to brake suddenly.

Keeping a sufficient distance allows you to stop in time. Also, proper following distance gives you more time to make good decisions. And it gives other motorists the chance to look far enough ahead and view the vehicle immediately in front of them.

What are Some Ways to Keep the Right Following Distance from a Semi?

An 18-wheeler requires more space between vehicles to allow for safe braking and unexpected actions.

If you’re driving less than 40 mph, leave at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length. For a typical tractor-trailer, this results in four seconds between you and the leading vehicle. For speeds over 40 mph, you should leave an additional second.

Plus, you should double your following distance in adverse conditions, such as bad weather, road construction, poor visibility, and heavy traffic. If you maintain a safe distance from the semi in front of you, it will allow you to stop safely and/or to take necessary evasive action.


When you follow too closely behind a semi, you put the truck driver in control of the decisions you make as a driver. So, when he or she brakes, you must do the same and do it quickly. But if you back off, and maintain a safe distance, you’ll regain control of your decision-making as a motorist.

Give semis plenty of room to be safe and be patient.

Contact Us

You should work with an experienced Atlanta semi truck accident attorney if you’ve suffered serious injuries in an accident with a big rig. Contact Tobin Injury Law, and we will work to get you the compensation you deserve, including compensation for property damage. With our experience and skills, we know what to look for when suing a trucking company.

You can contact an Atlanta truck accident attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 404-JUSTICE (404-587-8423) or using our online contact form. Tobin Injury Law offers free consultations and will be glad to answer your questions.