Rule 126 of the Highway Code makes it clear enough. It is a legal requirement for drivers to maintain a safe distance – or ‘headway’ – between themselves and the car in front – usually equating to a minimum ‘two-second gap’. Failure to do so is a major contributor to road accidents in the UK, particularly in wet and icy conditions when stopping distances at least double.

MOVE_UK was a three-year study which monitored driving behaviour in and around London’s Royal Borough of Greenwich. As the data partner on the project, leading telematics company The Floow analysed more than 8,500 hours and 100,000 miles of driving, equivalent to more than 60-year’s worth of driving experience.

The results were alarming:

  • Just over 20% of drivers were prone to cutting in between cars and were leaving less than a second between them and the car in front. This left very little reaction time, particularly for the car they have cut in front of.
  • On average, drivers cutting in at 25kmph or above do so left just a 1.35-second gap between them and the car behind them, meaning most drivers were not adhering to the guidance provided in the Highway Code.
  • It is typically those drivers who are leaving a safe gap between them and the car in front who become the victims of ‘cutting in’ because more dangerous drivers see this as an opportunity to push in.
  • At lower speeds this is not so much of a problem: almost a third (29%) of cut-ins happened at speeds of less than 19mph don’t require any braking or removal of the driver’s foot off the accelerator pedal. At higher speeds, 96% of the time drivers feel the need to react by either removal of their foot from the accelerator pedal or by applying the brake. Not only this, but the proportion of cut-ins requiring the driver to apply the brakes more than doubles (from 17% to more than 35%)
  • In wet weather, stopping distances roughly double and increase by as much as 10x in ice or snowy compared to dry conditions. The Floow’s research suggests most drivers do not allow for this. When windscreen wipers are active and a vehicle is moving faster than 12mph, the position of vehicles in front only increases by an average of two metres, which does not equate to a further two seconds of travel time, as the Highway Code recommends

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