Safety Report: Another Reason to Hate SUVs

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute have released the prosaically titled report " The Effect of Lead-Vehicle Size on Driver Following Behavior." Its authors gave randomly selected drivers (Hey! You!) video-equipped cars for two to five weeks, and then studied their driving behavior. The result: passenger car drivers followed light trucks at shorter distances than they followed passenger cars by an average of 5.6 m (18.6 ft), but at the same velocities and range-rates." Bizarrely enough, when drivers could see through, over or around lead vehicles, they maintained significantly longer (i.e., safer) following distances. The study's authors have a message for truck-tailgating drivers: being able to see a big ass vehicle's stop lights ain't enough. Back off jack. (Only in more scientific language.)

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Steve Biro Steve Biro on Sep 05, 2007

    I would agree that many, if not most, of the tailgating drivers simply want the SUV or truck to move out of the fast lane. While it's certainly not true that all SUVs or pick-up trucks hold up traffic, I can say anecdotally that these vehicles appear to make up a disproportionate amount of those that shouldn't be in the left-hand lane. At least in my neck of the woods. And I say this as the pround owner of a Ford Ranger.

  • Dynamic88 Dynamic88 on Sep 05, 2007

    It is an interesting result. I wonder if they did the study in Michigan? I'm sure we have the highest % of tailgaters in the nation, and the closest tailgaters. Many people here seem to think half a car length is adequate at 70mph. Watching other drivers it's clear that many are not looking more than two car lengths ahead no matter what is in front of them.

  • Hal Hal on Sep 05, 2007

    I guess I am one of those tailgaters. I hate not being able to see the road ahead when a larger vehicle is in front of me so am always looking for an opportunity to overtake. I guess I should get an SUV too.

  • Kansei Kansei on Sep 05, 2007

    Wow, these are very interesting findings. I always feel like I'm riding an SUV's ass, then I realize that my following distance is actually farther.. but not far enough. You realistically must maintain at least twice the following distance behind an SUV --just to be able to see traffic lights and such. same goes for the caliber :P but I like to stay as far from those as possible, else my Protege5 must catch the plague.