The Safety Cushion and the 3 Second Gap | LTrent

The Safety Cushion

(and the three-second gap)

Have you ever considered why so many people crash into each other?
The majority of crashes happen because the driver does not have enough space around them.
The space around the car is what Trent driver trainers call the Safety Cushion.
By maintaining space around your car you will allow time to react, manoeuvre and stop if required. You need to guard this space!

How do you know if you have enough space around your car?
Ideally, you need 2 metres between you and parked cars and about 1 metre between an oncoming vehicle.
On narrow roads, this might be difficult to maintain so you need to slow down. The basic rule is: Space reduced = Speed reduced
As space increases, you can speed up again.
Early learner drivers naturally slow down because they feel the need to ‘suck in’ when they go through narrow spaces. As drivers get more experienced and are more comfortable around other vehicles, they start to go faster. The problem is that every time you double your speed, your stopping distance is multiplied by 4.
Be aware of driving in the blind spots of other road users and avoid having cars right next to you. In multi-lane traffic, you need to be conscious of your safety cushion to oncoming vehicles. The right-hand lane is the head-on collision lane and should only be used when overtaking or turning right. It only takes a moment distraction by someone coming the other way for a head on collision. Don’t be there!
As safe drivers we should be thinking “Is there a person about to step out behind that van?” or  “Is someone about to pull out from the kerb in front of me?”

How do I protect my  Safety Cushion?

At higher speeds, you need to think about the space between you and the vehicles in front, behind and to the sides. This is where the  3-SECOND GAP applies.

Drivers should always maintain a 3-second gap to the vehicle in front.

To calculate a 3-second gap,  watch as the car in front goes past a stationary object and start counting: 1001, 1002, 1003. If you pass the object before saying 1003, you are too close.

Often the vehicle behind will not maintain a 3-second gap to your vehicle (if they are really aggressive, just get out of their way).

The 3-second gap works at all speeds

How do I know if I am good at applying the safety cushion?
When you have mastered the safety cushion you will:

  • Find yourself adjusting your position inside your lane to maximise your safety cushion where ever required.
  • Always have a 3-second gap or greater.
  • You will actively avoid driving next to other vehicles and get out of the way of aggressive drivers.
  • You will feel uncomfortable in the head on collision lane.

If this is you then great work! You are much more likely to be safe on our roads.


The Safer Drivers Course is designed for learner drivers wanting to learn more about becoming a safe driver. The course will help you gain a better understanding about what it takes to be a safe solo driver. Through both in-class activities and on-road coaching, the Safer Drivers Course will help you to be safe long after the driving test. The course is fun, engaging and informative. saferdriverscourse_infog