Q: What does the law say about how far back you should stop from the car ahead of you at a stoplight? — Doris C., Graham
A: Sh, sh. Listen, dear reader.
Do you hear that? Yeah, we don’t either.
That’s because the law, as far as we can tell after seconds and seconds of combing the RCWs, is silent on the subject.
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Still, the intrepid research staff here at Traffic Q&A headquarters continued its exhaustive investigation by asking those folks charged with enforcing the law what they know about it.
“I have no knowledge on this topic,” said Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.
OK, so maybe the rule of law does not apply to Doris’ question. What about the rule of thumb?
That query produced some results.
First, though, let us hear from Doris.
The lady from Graham told us she takes a safe-driving course every couple of years to keep her motoring skills sharp. Good on her. On the way to work this morning we encountered a few drivers who might benefit from a refresher. But we digress.
Doris said her instructors have told her that a good practice when pulling up behind a car stopped for a red light is to leave enough room so that you can see where that car’s rear tires touch the pavement, or, wait for it … where the rubber hits the road (We slay ourselves)!
Said Officer Cool: “My rule of thumb is far enough back, in case the other driver has a stick shift, they don’t roll into me.”
While possibly issued in the spirit of snark, Cool’s advice is sound, especially at, say, the intersection of westbound South 21st Street and Jefferson Avenue in Tacoma, where the hill is steep and the clutches, in our experience, are a bit soft.
Anyhoo, you might be asking, dear reader, why it even matters.
Safety, safety, safety.
This from the website driversedguru.com:
“If you can see the wheels touch the ground, then there is enough room for you to safely maneuver around that car in the case of an emergency. Their car may stall, a danger may approach from behind you, or you may need to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle. You always need to give yourself a way out.”
“When driving a marked patrol car, we stay far enough back to be able to maneuver around the car in front of us if necessary,” she said.
The gurus at driversedguru.com added this:
“Also, by leaving this space, you give yourself a buffer zone if you are bumped from behind. The space should provide enough room so that you do not subsequently hit the person in front of you.”
So, remember, leave some space between you and the driver ahead.
The fenders you save might be your own.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644