Driving today involves a lot of busy congested roads. Constantly stopping and starting in traffic is the norm. You need to be able to do it safely
Stopping in traffic may sound simple enough and on the whole, it generally is. There is however a right and wrong way of doing it. Let's take a look at the correct way of stopping in traffic and the common mistakes made.
The correct method for stopping in traffic starts well before you stop with anticipation and planning. This along with where you stop is a basic form of defensive driving.
Defensive driving offers the driver the ability to have complete awareness of their surroundings, providing better control of their vehicle which significantly reduces the possibility of an accident.
Imagine that you are driving along a town road and well ahead you see what appears a junction controlled by traffic lights. Good Anticipation would be to think "Those lights may change to Red by the time I get to them. I may have to stop." So, you begin to plan for that possibility using the MSPSL routine, then if the lights do go red you will be able to stop safely. If, however, they are green you are able to proceed safely also.
Another example is as you are driving, further down the road you can see a pedestrian crossing with a person waiting at them. Chances are, by the time you reach the crossing, the lights will change. Anticipation is what makes driving a whole lot easier. When you can predict a situation then it no longer becomes a surprise and surprises are not pleasant when it comes to driving.
If you have anticipated a situation, you can now plan for it. If you fail to anticipate and plan, you are always playing catch up and eventually something will go wrong.
Anticipation and planning is there for the most important aspect of stopping in traffic. Now for the actual stopping part. It's important not to stop too close behind another vehicle. There's little point in providing an actual numerical distance as there is no way of gauging this whilst driving. So a simple rule can be applied; The "tyres and tarmac" rule.
Tyres and tarmac rule (TAT)
Very simply, as you are slowing down preparing to stop behind another vehicle, stop your car so you can still see all of the car in front's rear wheels and a little bit of tarmac. Nothing technical, it's that simple. That should provide you with a good 2 metres or so of distance between the front of your car and the rear of theirs.
This depends on a few things such as your height, height of your car, types of vehicle you are stopping behind, but generally, it will provide a safe distance.
But does it really matter? The majority of the time no, not really. However, if the vehicle in front of you was to; stall, brake down or run into the back of the car in front of him, TAT will allow you enough room to manoeuvre around the vehicle to continue. Sometimes a vehicle in front may roll backwards, especially on a steep slope if they're not too great at hill starts or on a slight unnoticeable slope they may roll backwards without realising. The tyres and tarmac rule will provide enough distance to take these situations into account.
It may however even save your life in your driving career. Rear collision impacts are all too common and are the result of a driver definitely not anticipating and planning and may have their attention elsewhere such as using a mobile phone.
If you glance into your rear view mirror and notice a vehicle travelling towards your stationary car with little or no intention of slowing or stopping, the last thing you want is to be unable to move out of the way due to being stopped too close to the vehicle in front. It's highly unlikely you'll have time to reverse and move off.
So stopping too close to other vehicles not only shuts off any escape routes in the event of an emergency, but is something that done consistently during a driving test could likely result in a failure.
Also do not stop too far back. A following driver may not anticipate you stopping to soon and he could drive into you.