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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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