Are you always at fault if you rear-end someone?

Many people believe that when there is a rear end collision on the road, the rear driver is always at fault. That is often true. Texas follows the “assured clear distance” rule, which says that a rear driver should maintain enough distance to stop completely if the front car comes to a sudden stop.

However, there are certain circumstances in which the front driver is at fault, or fault is split between several drivers.

  • A car that suddenly changes lanes and slams its breaks may be at fault.
  • A car that comes to a sudden stop for no reason in traffic may be at fault.

However, these scenarios can be difficult to prove, especially without evidence like a dashboard camera. Therefore it is wise to maintain a safe distance between your car and the car ahead of you, so you have time to react in case they do something careless.

Texas Laws on Safe Driving Distance

Texas traffic laws and the Texas Driver Handbook require you to “keep a safe distance between your car and the one in front of you.”

Stating what a “safe distance” is can depend on the circumstances. The main rule is:

The faster you drive, the greater the distance between the front and rear cars should be.

The Texas Driver Handbook advises:

Driver / SpeedMinimum Time Between CarsRoad Conditions
30 mph or less2 SecondsGood
More than 30 mph4 secondsGood
Beginning or Inexperienced Drivers4 seconds at any speedGood
  • Drivers should allow more time when road conditions or visibility are poor (wet roads, fog, closed or crowded lanes).
  • For beginning or less experienced drivers, the minimum time between the front and rear cars should always be four (4) seconds.

Is the Three-Second Rule the law for rear-end car collisions in Texas?

Many driving instructors (and parents) advise new drivers that when one car passes an object, there should be “three seconds” before the car behind it passes the same object. The three-second rule is a measurement used by engineers to calculate a safe stopping distance for safety design. This rule is not the wording in Texas traffic laws.

What if I hit the car in front of me because I was being tailgated?

Under Texas law, you are not permitted to drive unsafely just because other drivers are doing so as well. If you cause an accident because of your speeding, blaming the unsafe driver behind you will usually not excuse it.

If you are being tail-gaited, do not accelerate to an unsafe speed. Be cautious and turn on your turning signal. If the driver behind you does not slow down, do not accelerate.

Instead, carefully signal and pull over to let the other driver pass.

Do not confront the other driver. It’s just not worth it.