SPECIAL REPORT: Following too closely on the roads

Published: Jan. 9, 2017 at 10:59 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2017 at 4:46 AM CST
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SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - Tailgating - when drivers follow the vehicle in front of them too close can lead to a dangerous situation. But local law enforcement is cracking down on the issue and will stop offenders.

"I'm the captain of the ship and I control what happens with the truck," said John Hoy, who nicknamed his truck "Viki Volvo." 

Hoy will proudly let you know that for the past 11 years, he's been a truck driver - he's been a "safe driver".

"I do take pride in what I do; I try not to tailgate nobody," Hoy said. 

But last Wednesday - he had a bit of a scare.

"He was just following a car too close once again, in a hurry, didn't pay attention and it almost costs him his life," Hoy said. 

Hoy was transporting a load from Ohio to Tennessee last week and during his drive through Kentucky, things quickly took a turn when a fellow driver was following too closely.

"This piece here is for aerodynamics; it makes the truck go faster; he was over here and I saw him and I saw him started coming and I jerked left and he caught it right here and slid all the way left and hit the tires on the trailer," Hoy said.

Luckily, Hoy said nobody was seriously injured.

"This is fiberglass. See how it bounces? It bounced him away from going under the trailer. If he would have gone under the trailer, I would have ran him over with the tires," Hoy said.

And although this was the first time Hoy was ever involved in an accident with his 18-wheeler, he said this is not the first time he's witnessed drivers following too closely.

And the roads are getting busier and busier in Southwest Louisiana. With more people on the roads, the potential for a traffic accident increases.

Some of those accidents, classified as "rear-ended collisions," are caused by drivers who follow the vehicle in front of them too closely.

It's something Louisiana State Police Troop D Sgt. James Anderson said needs to be addressed.

"It's something we see quite often; many of the collisions we see in our area are involving two, three, four vehicles and that tells us those individuals are following too closely," Anderson said. 

Louisiana law states that a "driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."

But there's no specific distance stated.

"There's no hard and fast rule, other than for commercial trucks are required to maintain a 400-foot spacing outside of a business or residential district,"  Anderson said.

State police recommends drivers maintain a three-second distance from the car in front of them.

"In other words, you site an object on the side of the road and as soon as that first vehicle passes you count off one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three, and it should take you that long to reach that object that's under ideal conditions if the roads are slippery or perhaps you're behind a motorcycle I would recommend you allow four seconds," he said.

It's four seconds for conditions that include weather, railroad crossings, or following drivers who cannot see you, like 18-wheelers.

In 2015, there were a little more than 25,000 crashes in the state - reported by all law enforcement agencies - coded as "following too closely," according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. That number represents 15 percent of all crashes documented.

"If you're going to work or going home, it's not worth killing somebody or hurting you or hurting somebody to ride on somebody's rear-end to get home quicker; it's not going to get you home any faster - if anything you're not going to get home at all," Hoy said. 

Crashes that can be avoided with a simple act of courtesy and common sense.

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