The most effective way to calculate a safe following distance on the road, whether you are riding a motorcycle or driving a car, is to count seconds.

The golden rule: you must be able to count at least three seconds between each vehicle. Bear in mind as well that, on this subject, Section 335 of the Highway Safety Code states that “speed, traffic density, atmospheric conditions and the condition of the roadway” are all factors to be taken into consideration in determining a “prudent and reasonable” following distance.

In short, the key to safe driving is anticipation. And the best way to anticipate is to give yourself enough time in which to react and make THE right decision.

Ride in the right spot. For a motorcyclist, riding in the right spot in the roadway is crucial. Motorcycle riders are less visible on the road because of the smaller size of their vehicle, so they must ride in the left third of the traffic lane to make sure motorists have a good view of them. That positioning keeps them out of the blind spot of the driver preceding them, and also makes them more visible to oncoming motorists. Furthermore, motorcyclists travelling in groups of two or more must ride in staggered formation, as stated in Section 483 of the Code.

Make eye contact. When stopped at a traffic light in a roadway with more than one lane, a motorcyclist must be able to make eye contact with a motorist next to him or her, to be sure of not being in that driver’s blind spot. The motorcyclist is properly positioned if he or she can see the driver’s head directly through the vehicle’s window or in its side mirror: he or she is sure to be seen by the driver. This minimizes the risk of a collision at an intersection — if someone is making a left turn, for example.

Seconds count. Also keep in mind that a motorcycle has a much shorter braking distance than an automobile does. So if you are driving a car and there is a motorcycle ahead of you, it is best to follow at a greater distance than normal to be able to react if the rider brakes suddenly. How do you calculate how far away you should be? Simple: pick a marker at the side of the road (e.g., lamppost, road sign, tree), and as soon as the motorcyclist ahead of you passes that point, count how many seconds it takes until you pass the same marker. If you don’t make it to three seconds, you’re too close!