At stoplights or stop signs, you see some drivers leaving huge gaps between them and the car in front. Others are almost sitting on the car’s  bumper. What’s going on?

It’s not an issue addressed in the state Vehicle Code, Petaluma Police Sgt. Ken Savano notes.

Some drivers like to creep up close to the car in front so as to provide as much room as possible for cars behind them, he says. Others leave plenty of room to be able to maneuver if they need to.

Roileen Miller of Miller Driving School in Cotati teaches her students to leave room.

“Leave yourself enough room to escape if you need to,” she advises. “In case the guy in front of you breaks down or hits the person in front of him. You can get away” and not be stuck.

Miller says you want to leave room ahead because the car behind you might be so close that you might not be able to back up to gain space to pull around.

By leaving a gap in front, she says, you build in a margin of safety in case the car behind you doesn’t stop in time and hits you. The gap should be large enough that you’re not then pushed into the car in front.

How much room to use? She tells her students they should be able to see the bottom of the back tires of the car in front plus a foot or so of road.

Savano says officers are trained to leave enough room in front at stops to ensure they can pull out to pursue a passing suspect or to respond to an emergency.


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  1. Todd Beam

    Roileen Miller that is very bad advice & only encourages bottlenecks & massive delays. There is a reason vehicles are equipped with reverse & don’t give me this crap about not being able to backup because in situations like that leaving a space won’t help you either as there will be no place to go. We have a real bad problem in this country with too many so-called experts giving the exact opposite advice. It’s high time people wake up & realize their officials are wrong. It also wouldn’t kill some of you to loosen up a bit & fan out. My God you’re behaving like disoriented packets attempting to function in an organized fashion over a hub. Get your crap together & behave like packets on a switch. Why do you think switches run a lot faster & smoother than hubs with less errors!? Wisconsin especially talk about dumb drivers my God. Don’t be so obsessed with speeding you lose site of the fact there are times when you need to speed to avoid chaos. Wisconsin you have much bigger problems than speeding. To name a few: Driving too slow, stopping on off-ramps, bunching up single file, excessive use of one lane, braking too much when no one close or allowing too much space in front of you.

    May 30th, 2013 7:38 am

  2. John

    Read all the comments with interest. Sorry, buy I agree with leaving a bit of room. I stop so that I can see the entire vehicle plus a bit of pavement, for all the reasons stated. Impatient people that get on my ass annoy the piss out of me.

    Why stop back from the light when you’re the first in line? I stop so that I can see the light comfortably. If I need to lean forward and peer up at the light when stopped at the line then the line is too close to the light.

    Who is at fault if you stop close behind someone on a hill and that person is driving a car with a manual transmission and he rolls back into you? You are, at least in the state I live in.

    The only excuse I read for not leaving room in the comments is lack of patients. You may not make it through the light… you can’t squeak into that turning lane… Is another 30 seconds gonna make that big a difference in your life? Really? If so then you should have left sooner.

    It has nothing at all to do with being inconsiderate. It has to do with defensive driving. The defensive driver expects other drivers to do stupid things. Why? Because they generally do.

    June 17th, 2013 2:01 pm


    I enjoy when people get up my ass at a light, especially on steep hills, no roll room? Don’t worry, your POS fiberglass won’t do much to my 6 in. tubular steel bumper.

    #standardprobs #sorrynotsorry

    March 5th, 2014 8:55 am

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