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Can You Get Ticketed for Following Too Closely in New York?

Motorists must keep enough distance between their car and the vehicle in front of them. The space requirement ensures the safety of drivers and passengers. Following too closely (or tailgating) violates New York law, and an officer could cite you for such conduct. If you are found guilty, you could be subject to a fine and points on your driving record. Still, you have options for fighting your ticket, and a lawyer can help.

At Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C., we deliver skilled defense for individuals accused of traffic violations. If you need legal representation in New York, please contact us at (212) 235-1525.

How Close Is Too Close When You’re Driving?

When driving on the road, you must leave enough space between you and the car in front of you. If there’s not enough distance, and the front vehicle suddenly brakes or some other unpredictable event happens, you could cause an accident.

So what amount of space are you supposed to leave?

New York law doesn’t set an exact distance one vehicle should be from the car in front of them. Vehicle and Traffic Code § 1129, the statute concerning tailgating, states that motorists should maintain a space that is “reasonable or prudent.”

The definition of following too closely is vague, but understandably so. The distance between two cars will vary depending on a variety of factors.

And New York recognizes this in the law, as it states that the following considerations must be made when someone is behind another car:

  • The speed of the vehicles,
  • The amount of traffic, and
  • The road conditions.

Generally, the commonly accepted standard when following a car is the 3-second rule. Under this principle, to measure the distance between yourself and another vehicle, pick a stationary object on the side of the road, like a lamppost. Start counting when the other vehicle reaches that object. If the front of your car gets to the object before you count to 3, you’re too close. It should take 3 seconds to reach the same object the vehicle in front of you just passed.

Although the 3-second rule is a helpful guideline, it doesn’t apply in every driving situation. Sometimes you’ll need more than a 3-second distance between you and another car. For instance, if there’s heavy rain, your visibility may be decreased and the roads may be slick, which means the space between vehicles must be greater to account for the conditions.

Where New York’s tailgating law gets a little more specific about the distance between vehicles is the section on caravans. When multiple vehicles of the same party are following one another, there should be enough space between them that another car could safely move into the space. However, the distance requirement is not applicable for funeral motorcades.

How Much Is a Following Too Closely Ticket?

The fine for tailgating will depend on the situation. Generally, it is a couple of hundred dollars. Remember that paying a ticket is an admission of guilt. Thus, if you simply submit payment, you suffer the consequences of the ticket (e.g., fines, driver’s license points) without getting to tell your side of the story.

How Many Points Can You Get for Tailgating?

New York operates under a point system used to identify high-risk drivers. If you’re found guilty of following too closely, the DMV will add 4 points to your driving record. Accumulating 11 points in 18 months will result in driver’s license suspension.

Additionally, if you get 6 points in 18 months, you will be assessed a Driver Responsibility fee. The cost is $100 a year for 3 years for a total of $300. With a tailgating conviction, you’d need only two more points to be subject to the fee.

What Are Some Legal Defenses Against Following Too Closely?

You can fight your tailgating ticket. The arguments you raise depend on the facts of your case.

Common defenses include:

  • The driver wasn’t too close given the road or environmental conditions
  • The officer misjudged the distance between the two vehicles
  • The motorist in front suddenly braked, decreasing the distance between the two vehicles

Hire an Attorney for Your Case

A following too closely ticket is no small matter. A lawyer can help seek a favorable outcome. They know how to argue these cases and understand the factors a court might consider when determining guilt. They can use this insight to develop your defense.

At Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C., we develop comprehensive strategies to assist our clients in New York. Schedule a consultation by calling us at (212) 235-1525 or contacting us online today.