The organisation in charge of England’s motorway network has urged motorists to remember the “two-second rule” when driving. The rule of thumb, which suggests leaving a two-second gap to the vehicle in front, is used by drivers to ensure they have space to stop if the car in front brakes suddenly.

The Highway Code tells drivers to leave a two-second gap to the vehicle in front, but National Highways says some motorists still need reminding of the rules. Driving too close to another vehicle can lead to prosecution for driving without due care and attention. This offence carries a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points, and in some cases more severe penalties or a court appearance.

The organisation said a reminder was necessary after a trial of new tailgating cameras on a stretch of the M1 motorway captured more than 60,000 incidents of drivers following too closely in just one year. In total, the trial captured 60,343 incidents of tailgating in 12 months, with just under 11,000 repeat offenders. Working with Northamptonshire Police, National Highways’ scheme saw 2,144 letters sent out to drivers warning them they had driven too close and highlighting the “dangers of not leaving safe braking distances”.

Speed camera monitoring busy traffic motorway at night

Those figures come despite a National Highways survey that revealed the two-second rule is well known, with eight in 10 respondents aware of the guidance. And in spite of National Highways’ findings on the M1, 75 percent of those questioned said they had never driven too close to the vehicle in front within the past three months.

In response, National Highways has launched a campaign to tackle tailgating on the roads it operates, including all England’s motorways and most major A-roads. According to the organisation’s bigwigs, tailgating is a factor in one in eight accidents on the strategic road network.

White vans on M4 motorway about to enter the Brynglas Tunnels at Newport

“Unfortunately, as highlighted by the M1 trial, we know that too many people are driving too close on our roads,” said National Highways’ head of road safety, Jeremy Phillips. “Most tailgating is unintentional by drivers who don’t realise that they are infringing on someone else’s space. But not leaving enough space between you and the vehicle in front is not only very frightening for that driver, it could have devastating consequences.

“The closer you get, the less time you have to react and to stop safely. So to avoid inadvertently getting too close to the vehicle in front, we would urge drivers to use the two-second rule and to always ‘stay safe, stay back’.”