View Question
 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```
 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```
 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```