Following too closely behind a vehicle is prohibited by Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.34. Under this code section, the driver of a motor vehicle is prohibited from following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle, the traffic and the condition of the highway.
Generally, the driver of any truck, or motor vehicle drawing another vehicle, when traveling upon a roadway outside a business or residence district is required to maintain a sufficient space, whenever conditions permit, between such vehicle and another vehicle ahead so an overtaking motor vehicle may enter and occupy such space without danger. This provision does not prevent overtaking and passing. Nor does this provision apply to any lane specially designated for use by trucks.
Outside a municipal corporation, the driver of any truck, or motor vehicle when drawing another vehicle, while ascending to the crest of a grade beyond which the driver’s view of a roadway is obstructed, must not follow within three hundred feet of another truck, or motor vehicle drawing another vehicle. This provision does not apply to any lane specially designated for use by trucks.
Motor vehicles being driven upon any roadway outside of a business or residence district in a caravan or motorcade must maintain sufficient space between such vehicles so an overtaking vehicle may enter and occupy such space without danger. This provision does not apply to funeral processions.
As an aside, following too closely is a “tailgating” type of offense. The focus of this offense is the distance to the vehicle in front. Another related offense is the failure to maintain an assured clear distance ahead, commonly referenced as ACDA. The focus of an ACDA offense is excessive speed, such that a driver is unable to stop within an assured clear distance ahead to avoid a collision. For a discussion on the ACDA offense, click here.
How Close Is Too Close?
Except as set forth above, the Ohio Revised Code does not provide any specific formula or methodology to determine how close is too close. The Ohio Department of Public Safety has published a Digest of Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws, which provides the following guidance:
The distance it takes to stop your vehicle depends on your reaction time, the speed at which you are traveling, the condition of your brakes and the condition of the pavement (wet, dry or icy). A driver must maintain sufficient distance between his or her vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Some safety experts advise drivers to allow one car length ahead for each 10 mph of speed. Others suggest following the “three-second rule”: Watch the vehicle ahead pass a stationary object, such as a lamppost, counting “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.” If you pass the lamppost before you say “three,” you are following too closely and should slow down your speed. In bad weather, increase the space to four or five seconds of traveling time.
In determining whether a driver is following too closely, courts consider factors like reaction time, speed, brake condition, weather conditions and estimated distance.
Penalty For Following Too Closely
Following too closely ordinarily is a minor misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a minor misdemeanor traffic offense includes the imposition of a fine of up to $150, up to 30 hours of community service and court costs.
But if, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, then following too close is elevated to a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a fourth-degree misdemeanor traffic infraction includes the imposition of a jail term of not more than 30 days, an additional or alternative community control sanction plus reimbursement for the cost of this sanction, a fine of up to $250 and court costs.
And if, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, then following too closely is elevated to a third-degree misdemeanor. The penalty for a third-degree misdemeanor traffic infraction includes the potential imposition of a jail term of not more than 60 days, an additional or alternative community control sanction plus reimbursement for the cost of this sanction, a fine of up to $500 and court costs.
Community control sanctions generally can include residential placement, house arrest, drug/alcohol testing and treatment, specified education and training, community service, curfew, probation, etc. Under certain circumstances, the court also may order an offender to pay restitution to any identifiable victim who incurred an economic loss as a result of the violation.
Points Assessed For Following Too Closely
A conviction on a traffic ticket for following too closely carries two points in Ohio on an offender’s driving record. For more information on how the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) processes points for moving violations and the substantial penalty for excessive points accumulation, press Ohio BMV Points System.
Speak To An Attorney Today
Frequently a lawyer can appear in court and resolve a traffic case in the client’s absence, provided both the court and the prosecutor agree. This saves the client the aggravation of taking time off from work, fighting traffic to get to court on time, waiting for potentially hours for the case to be called, standing in long lines and potentially having to do it all over again if the case is continued.