WSP: Slow down, back it up, following too close causes 9,500 collisions

SEATTLE – Slow down and back it up. That’s the message from the Washington State Patrol after an alarming number of crashes because drivers were following too closely.

Just last year, WSP responded to 9,500 collisions and stopped 24,300 vehicles for the following-too-close violation. That’s why troopers will spend next week enforcing the common problem.

I-5 is our north-south corridor with plenty of cars and fast speeds. But State Patrol Trooper Chase Van Cleave says there’s just enough space to not follow too closely. A car length for every 10 miles per hour speed.

“In rush hour I don’t think it’s any different -- you want to plan according for the speed that you’re going and you don’t want to underestimate your ability to stop just because you’re going slower,” said Van Cleave.

Especially if you’re a big truck that weighs a lot. Van Cleave says it takes even longer to respond, like a white van, he says, is just too close to a Prius.

“I’m stopping you because you’re super close to that Toyota in front of you,” said Van Cleave.

The driver doesn’t quite agree.

“None of that is OK. Just because they’re going slow doesn’t mean you get that close behind them and flash your lights … you’ve got lanes on your left you’re allowed to pass a car in,” said Van Cleave.

He learned a hard lesson that will cost him. A $136 ticket for driving too close and it goes up to $187 if that violation causes a crash.

“A minor, reportable collision, just a simple fender bender, up to a fatal collision depending on how fast you’re going and what’s actually going on in front of you,” said Van Cleave.

Van Cleave and the rest of the Washington State Patrol will do an emphasis patrol, meaning they’ll be specifically looking for the violation even if you don’t think it’s a big deal.

“It can happen to anybody, I think sometimes because it hasn’t happened to us or we haven’t been involved in a collision that it doesn’t apply to us,” said Van Cleave.

So if you want to pull up to someone’s bumper, think again.

Troopers will be out specifically enforcing following-too-close on March 7 to March 9.