Status: 30/09/2023, 15:29 p.m.
By: Sebastian Oppenheimer
Driving too close on the highway is not only unpleasant for the driver in front – it is also very dangerous. But: How much distance do you have to keep at least?
It's a situation that most drivers are probably familiar with: You're driving in the left lane of the motorway – and suddenly a car behind you is hanging in the rear-view mirror. As a rule, driving up close is anything but a pleasant feeling. And even if you would like to let the vehicle pass – sometimes this is not possible immediately because the lane on the right does not offer the possibility to cut in. But: What is the minimum distance you have to keep on the motorway? And when does jostling even become coercion in road traffic?
Safety distance on the motorway: what the Highway Code prescribes
There is no specific value for the safety distance to the vehicle in front, which is defined in meters, for example. The distance to the vehicle in front always depends on the speed being driven. The safety distance is regulated in § 4 of the Road Traffic Act (StVO). It states: "As a rule, the distance to a vehicle in front must be so large that it is possible to keep behind it even if it is suddenly braked."
Distance on the motorway: How close is the vehicle behind actually allowed to drive up? (Symbolic image) © Jochen Tack/Imago
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Keep the right distance: There are two rules of thumb
Nowadays, numerous vehicles already have distance warning or adaptive cruise control installed. If you do not have such a technique, you should know the two rules of thumb for the safety distance. The best known is: minimum distance outside built-up areas equals "half speedometer". So if you drive 140 km/h, you should keep a distance of at least 70 meters from the vehicle in front. But how do you know how far 70 meters are approximately? Here, the delineators at the edge of the road usually provide a good orientation aid. As a rule, they are set up at a distance of 50 meters – so the current distance can be easily estimated.
Safety distance not maintained on the motorway: What penalties motorists face
The distance can also be roughly determined with the so-called "two-second rule". As a driver, you have to pay attention to when a vehicle in front passes a certain traffic sign, for example. With your own vehicle, you should reach that place two seconds later at the earliest.
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A violation of the distance regulations on the highway can be quite expensive. The fines depend on the speed driven and the amount of the undercut. According to bussgeldkatalog.org, a safety distance of less than half of half the speedometer value from 100 km/h leads to a fine of 75 euros and a point in Flensburg. If the distance at this speed is less than 1/10 of half the speedometer value, it costs 320 euros, plus two points and a three-month driving ban. From 130 km/h, the penalties are even more severe. The latter violation, for example, can cost 400 euros, while the remaining sanctions remain the same.
Too little distance on the motorway: A judge decides whether it is coercion
Pushers are threatened with greater trouble if their act is interpreted as coercion in road traffic. This is a criminal offence that may even be punishable by imprisonment. In most cases, however, a high fine is imposed – this is based on the monthly net salary. A driving ban can also be imposed. However, driving too close alone should not normally constitute coercion. This is usually the case when the vehicle in front is put under massive pressure, for example by additional use of the headlight flasher. In the end, however, such a case is always decided by a judge.