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Q: Following too close ( Answered,   5 Comments )
Question  
Subject: Following too close
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: ovart-ga
List Price: $4.50
Posted: 16 Oct 2006 12:18 PDT
Expires: 15 Nov 2006 11:18 PST
Question ID: 774105
I received a citation for "following too close" from the Ohio State
Patrol. I was traveling south at 55 MPH and the officer was traveling
north at 55 MPH.  I was the last car in a line of 5 traveling south. 
The officer passed me going the opposite direction.  After he passed,
I moved into the left lane and passed the car in front of me.  The
citation read "one to one and a half car lengths at 55 MPH". Here are
my questions.  1.  Is it possible for the officer to measure my speed
while he is moving 55 MPH going in the opposite direction.  2.  Is it
possible for the officer to measure the distance ( stated one to one
and half times the length of the car) (( 14 to 21 feet)) without the
aide of a mechanical device or is there a device available that would
measure this distance while he is moving at 55 mph in the opposit
direction.  Doing the math at 55 MPH he would have to measure 14-21
feet in 1/8 to 1/4 of a second.  If you can provide this information
within 48 hours I would appreciate it.  Since I was not following that
close I plan to contest this citation.

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 19 Oct 2006 20:05 PDT
Dear ovart-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question. As one
who has many years of expertise in this area I believe I am qualified
to answer your question by sharing what I have learned in my 20+ years
of law enforcement. Thus far the comments below have all been somewhat
accurate. Let me explain in greater detail:

>>> Is it possible for the officer to measure my speed while he is
moving 55 MPH going in the opposite direction?

This is indeed possible. Officers, as you know, often have ?radar?, a
term used for a variety of different types of devices that utilize a
signal (light, sound, etc.) which bounces off a target and returns to
the device. The device calculates the time it takes for a signal with
a known speed to leave the unit, strike the target and return. It then
applies that data to a mathematical formula which in turn provides a
digital readout to the officer in miles per hour.  Although this is
the type of device an officer might have used to determine your speed,
ironically however this is NOT the tool he would have used to
determine whether or not you were following too closely. Those tools
are actually much more fundamental than this. Read on?

>>> Is it possible for the officer to measure the distance (stated one
to one and half times the length of the car) (( 14 to 21 feet))
without the aide of a mechanical device or is there a device available
that would measure this distance while he is moving at 55 mph in the
opposite direction?

The three most common means of determining whether a vehicle traveling
in the opposite direction is following another vehicle too closely are
(believe it or not) a stopwatch, an odometer and experience/training.

Using a stopwatch an officer can tell if you are following too closely
by activating the watch as he passes the rear of the vehicle in front
of you. As the front of YOUR car passes him he can deactivate the
stopwatch and learn the time it took for the end of one vehicle to
pass before the front of the next vehicle appears. By applying this to
a relatively simple mathematical formula (Distance = Speed x Time) he
can not only determine the distance between the vehicles but using a
variation of this he can also determine the speed (Speed =
Distance/Time). Would this be his word against yours? Not necessarily.
I?ll speak more about that in a moment.

DISTANCE, TIME, SPEED
http://www.sciencescope.co.uk/distance_time_and_speed.htm

KINEMATICS
http://www.batesville.k12.in.us/Physics/PhyNet/Mechanics/Kinematics/AveSpeed.html

Secondly, to achieve the same goal, an officer can make note of his
odometer at the time the first vehicle passes and the number on his
odometer when the second vehicle passes. While this is much harder to
do since odometers don?t typically measure feet, it serves as a very
good tool to help confirm his visual perception of what occurred.

Lastly, law enforcement officers undergo rigorous training in this
very subject. The majority of citizens don?t realize it but traffic
enforcement does not come from a book with simple rules to follow.
Officers are required to obtain certifications before whey can even
operate a radar device or other traffic control mechanisms. In
addition to learning the law, self-defense, defensive driving and many
other important things most officers typically undergo a week or more
of training on this one topic in the training academies around the US
and must pass a number of courses related to accurate visual
measurements. In fact, many academies spend more time on this one
topic than any other single block of instruction. The tests are brutal
too and the instructors take this portion of training so seriously
that some officer candidates fail and must seek other professions
because they simply could not adequately perform in this area. In
addition, these officers routinely receive annual refresher training
in order to keep their state certifications. With that in mind, one of
the many things perfected in these courses is accurate visualization.
While this learned skill is not absolute, with the certification to
back up his expertise an officer?s testimony frequently carries
enormous weight with regard to his visual estimates in a court of law.

Finally let me also mention this: Most modern police agencies have
dash-mounted cameras that not only show the speed of the police car
but also the speed on oncoming cars as well as the time down to the
10th or 100th of a second. With this, an officer would not need to
?literally? have a stopwatch, for which his word and yours might be
pitted against one another in court. All he has to do is pop in the
tape which has a built-in stopwatch and the proof, as they say, is in
the pudding. There could be no more damning evidence against you than
film footage of you doing precisely what the officer claims you were
doing. If in fact the officer presents this in court (assuming he has
such a tape) your case will likely be doomed from the outset.

Most importantly is this:

As others have suggested the general rule is that a following vehicle
should not be closer to the vehicle ahead of him than one car length
(the length of his or her OWN car) for every 10 miles per hour that
the LEAD car is traveling. Unfortunately, for you, Ohio Revised Code
has an even broader statutory prohibition that says,

?Motor vehicles being driven upon any roadway outside of a business or
residence district in a caravan or motorcade, shall maintain a
sufficient space between such vehicles so an overtaking vehicle may
enter and occupy such space without danger.?

OHIO REVISED CODE
 4511.34. Space between moving vehicles.
http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oh/lpExt.dll/PORC/1cc60/1d68b/1d7a6/1d7de?f=templates&fn=document-frame.htm&2.0#JD_451134
[ note: ?caravan or motorcade? here merely means ?in single file? and
not necessarily in a convoy together ]

With this broad statute in mind, a certified officer doesn?t
necessarily have to convince the court (or show them on tape) that you
were traveling specifically within ?one to one and half times the
length of the car? (since there are no enhanced penalties for SPECIFIC
unsafe distances). He only has to convince the court that you were
traveling close enough that it did not allow for sufficient space for
a passing vehicle to ?safely? (operative word here) overtake you and
move into that space. Here is where the statute takes into
consideration a certified officer?s professionally trained estimation
of what ?unsafe? actually was under the given set of circumstances.

You do have the right to see any evidence against you but keep in mind
that this often requires you to subpoena evidence, file a ?motion of
discovery?, and obtain interrogatories and depositions, usually with
the aid of a licensed attorney (unless you know how to do this
yourself or you financially qualify for a public defender or legal
aid). Here is where strategy and common sense comes in because, in the
end, what you might end up doing is paying a lot of money only to find
out there IS overwhelmingly significant and credible evidence against
you (testimony, certification, video tape, timer, witnesses, etc). If
that happens you?ll then you have to bow out and pay the fine and
court costs anyway in ADDITION to your attorney. Alternatively you
could weigh your situation and consider just paying the fine.

Since our answers are not intended to replace professional legal
advice, for the best results I recommend you consult an attorney.
Otherwise, by my professional estimation and experience you?re in one
tough pickle. Do you fight this relatively minor traffic infraction at
the very real risk of a BIG TIME financial defeat (or if you prefer to
look at it this way, take a chance, in my opinion, at a substantially
lesser probability: a major win) or do you cut your losses, chalk this
one up to experience and live to fight another day? As I see it, those
are your options. The rest is up to you.

I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;

Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher


[INFORMATION SOURCES]

Defined above

[SEARCH STRATEGY]


SEARCH ENGINE(S) USED:

Google ://www.google.com
 

[SEARCH TERMS USED]

OHIO REVISED CODE

FOLLLOWING TOO CLOSELY

SAFE DISTANCE

LENGTH

STATUTE 

LAW
Answer  
Subject: Re: Following too close
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 19 Oct 2006 20:08 PDT
 
I am sorry. I inadvertently posted my answer in the clarification
area. I am merely re-posting the same information here in order to
formally answer your question:

=================================================

Dear ovart-ga;

Thank you for allowing me to answer your interesting question. As one
who has many years of expertise in this area I believe I am qualified
to answer your question by sharing what I have learned in my 20+ years
of law enforcement. Thus far the comments below have all been somewhat
accurate. Let me explain in greater detail:

>>> Is it possible for the officer to measure my speed while he is
moving 55 MPH going in the opposite direction?

This is indeed possible. Officers, as you know, often have ?radar?, a
term used for a variety of different types of devices that utilize a
signal (light, sound, etc.) which bounces off a target and returns to
the device. The device calculates the time it takes for a signal with
a known speed to leave the unit, strike the target and return. It then
applies that data to a mathematical formula which in turn provides a
digital readout to the officer in miles per hour.  Although this is
the type of device an officer might have used to determine your speed,
ironically however this is NOT the tool he would have used to
determine whether or not you were following too closely. Those tools
are actually much more fundamental than this. Read on?

>>> Is it possible for the officer to measure the distance (stated one
to one and half times the length of the car) (( 14 to 21 feet))
without the aide of a mechanical device or is there a device available
that would measure this distance while he is moving at 55 mph in the
opposite direction?

The three most common means of determining whether a vehicle traveling
in the opposite direction is following another vehicle too closely are
(believe it or not) a stopwatch, an odometer and experience/training.

Using a stopwatch an officer can tell if you are following too closely
by activating the watch as he passes the rear of the vehicle in front
of you. As the front of YOUR car passes him he can deactivate the
stopwatch and learn the time it took for the end of one vehicle to
pass before the front of the next vehicle appears. By applying this to
a relatively simple mathematical formula (Distance = Speed x Time) he
can not only determine the distance between the vehicles but using a
variation of this he can also determine the speed (Speed =
Distance/Time). Would this be his word against yours? Not necessarily.
I?ll speak more about that in a moment.

DISTANCE, TIME, SPEED
http://www.sciencescope.co.uk/distance_time_and_speed.htm

KINEMATICS
http://www.batesville.k12.in.us/Physics/PhyNet/Mechanics/Kinematics/AveSpeed.html

Secondly, to achieve the same goal, an officer can make note of his
odometer at the time the first vehicle passes and the number on his
odometer when the second vehicle passes. While this is much harder to
do since odometers don?t typically measure feet, it serves as a very
good tool to help confirm his visual perception of what occurred.

Lastly, law enforcement officers undergo rigorous training in this
very subject. The majority of citizens don?t realize it but traffic
enforcement does not come from a book with simple rules to follow.
Officers are required to obtain certifications before whey can even
operate a radar device or other traffic control mechanisms. In
addition to learning the law, self-defense, defensive driving and many
other important things most officers typically undergo a week or more
of training on this one topic in the training academies around the US
and must pass a number of courses related to accurate visual
measurements. In fact, many academies spend more time on this one
topic than any other single block of instruction. The tests are brutal
too and the instructors take this portion of training so seriously
that some officer candidates fail and must seek other professions
because they simply could not adequately perform in this area. In
addition, these officers routinely receive annual refresher training
in order to keep their state certifications. With that in mind, one of
the many things perfected in these courses is accurate visualization.
While this learned skill is not absolute, with the certification to
back up his expertise an officer?s testimony frequently carries
enormous weight with regard to his visual estimates in a court of law.

Finally let me also mention this: Most modern police agencies have
dash-mounted cameras that not only show the speed of the police car
but also the speed on oncoming cars as well as the time down to the
10th or 100th of a second. With this, an officer would not need to
?literally? have a stopwatch, for which his word and yours might be
pitted against one another in court. All he has to do is pop in the
tape which has a built-in stopwatch and the proof, as they say, is in
the pudding. There could be no more damning evidence against you than
film footage of you doing precisely what the officer claims you were
doing. If in fact the officer presents this in court (assuming he has
such a tape) your case will likely be doomed from the outset.

Most importantly is this:

As others have suggested the general rule is that a following vehicle
should not be closer to the vehicle ahead of him than one car length
(the length of his or her OWN car) for every 10 miles per hour that
the LEAD car is traveling. Unfortunately, for you, Ohio Revised Code
has an even broader statutory prohibition that says,

?Motor vehicles being driven upon any roadway outside of a business or
residence district in a caravan or motorcade, shall maintain a
sufficient space between such vehicles so an overtaking vehicle may
enter and occupy such space without danger.?

OHIO REVISED CODE
 4511.34. Space between moving vehicles.
http://onlinedocs.andersonpublishing.com/oh/lpExt.dll/PORC/1cc60/1d68b/1d7a6/1d7de?f=templates&fn=document-frame.htm&2.0#JD_451134
[ note: ?caravan or motorcade? here merely means ?in single file? and
not necessarily in a convoy together ]

With this broad statute in mind, a certified officer doesn?t
necessarily have to convince the court (or show them on tape) that you
were traveling specifically within ?one to one and half times the
length of the car? (since there are no enhanced penalties for SPECIFIC
unsafe distances). He only has to convince the court that you were
traveling close enough that it did not allow for sufficient space for
a passing vehicle to ?safely? (operative word here) overtake you and
move into that space. Here is where the statute takes into
consideration a certified officer?s professionally trained estimation
of what ?unsafe? actually was under the given set of circumstances.

You do have the right to see any evidence against you but keep in mind
that this often requires you to subpoena evidence, file a ?motion of
discovery?, and obtain interrogatories and depositions, usually with
the aid of a licensed attorney (unless you know how to do this
yourself or you financially qualify for a public defender or legal
aid). Here is where strategy and common sense comes in because, in the
end, what you might end up doing is paying a lot of money only to find
out there IS overwhelmingly significant and credible evidence against
you (testimony, certification, video tape, timer, witnesses, etc). If
that happens you?ll then you have to bow out and pay the fine and
court costs anyway in ADDITION to your attorney. Alternatively you
could weigh your situation and consider just paying the fine.

Since our answers are not intended to replace professional legal
advice, for the best results I recommend you consult an attorney.
Otherwise, by my professional estimation and experience you?re in one
tough pickle. Do you fight this relatively minor traffic infraction at
the very real risk of a BIG TIME financial defeat (or if you prefer to
look at it this way, take a chance, in my opinion, at a substantially
lesser probability: a major win) or do you cut your losses, chalk this
one up to experience and live to fight another day? As I see it, those
are your options. The rest is up to you.

I hope you find that my answer exceeds your expectations. If you have
any questions about my research please post a clarification request
prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating and your
final comments and I look forward to working with you again in the
near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;

Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher


[INFORMATION SOURCES]

Defined above

[SEARCH STRATEGY]


SEARCH ENGINE(S) USED:

Google ://www.google.com
 

[SEARCH TERMS USED]

OHIO REVISED CODE

FOLLLOWING TOO CLOSELY

SAFE DISTANCE

LENGTH

STATUTE 

LAW
Comments  
Subject: Re: Following too close
From: jack_of_few_trades-ga on 16 Oct 2006 13:02 PDT
 
If I understand court proceedings correctly, you are entitled to see
all evidence against you before the trial.  You should call the court
and ask how you can get your hands on a copy of any evidence.
Subject: Re: Following too close
From: cynthia-ga on 16 Oct 2006 13:36 PDT
 
The rule of thumb is that you should be behind a vehicle 10 feet
(approx 1 car length) for every 10MPH you are driving. If you are
going 55MPH, you should be 55 feet behind the car in front of you. The
way to guage that is to wait for the car in front of you to pass an
object, keep your eye on it as you count "one-onethousand,
two-onethousand, three-onethousand, four-onethousand,
five-onethousand" --counting until you pass the same point as the car
in front of you did. This is approximate, but you get the idea.

It's fairly easy to tell when someone is following too close, no
matter what direction you are driving or angle you are looking from.
For a police officer to single you out when he was driving the other
direction indicates you were indeed waaaay too close. Perhaps not one
and a half car lengths, but close enough to cause the officer to turn
around and cite you.
Subject: Re: Following too close
From: cynthia-ga on 16 Oct 2006 13:42 PDT
 
This might help, it's a NPR segment on:

Police Departments Target Tailgaters
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6193894
..."A number of police departments across the country are trying out
technology already used in Europe to help catch drivers who follow too
close to the car in front of them. Officials believe it's time to
crack down on tailgating. Kristian Foden-Vencil of Oregon Public
Broadcasting reports..."
Subject: Re: Following too close
From: daniel2d-ga on 16 Oct 2006 14:54 PDT
 
1.  Rule of thumb is not the law.
2.  This charge is usually used when there has been an accident and
the proximate cause is having follwed too close OR the officer has
followed and observed you following too closely for some period of
time.
3.  As far as evidence goes  - the only evidence will be the officers
testimony.   Attack it as you did in your question.
4.  Look up the charge and see exactly what the elements of that violation is.
Subject: Re: Following too close
From: barneca-ga on 19 Oct 2006 18:12 PDT
 
first, the cop could have used radar to get the speed of the front
car.  plus, you aren't disputing their estimate of your speed, so it's
a moot point.

second, it's actually pretty easy to look at cars going by in the
opposite direction and determine their spacing within 1/2 car length
or so.  while cynthia's "time to pass a fixed object" thing sort of
works when you're following someone, it would be nearly impossible,
travelling in the opposite direction, to do it that way.  but it's
like a horse race; you aren't calculating the time it takes between
when one car passes a fixed point, and when the next car does.  you're
just looking at the spacing between the two cars (which isn't changing
if you're going the same speed) and comparing it to the length of one
of the cars.  try it tomorrow driving to work and you'll see, it's
easy.

-cab

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