*The Assured Clear Distance Ahead Rule

While driving on a number of Interstates, in the past few days, so as to attend a Seder in Luray, VA (first night,) and East Northport, NY (second night,) I was reminded of a rule of law, when drivers chose to drive only a few feet behind me, while we traveled at various speed limits, the highest of which is in West Virginia, where it is 70 miles per hour. I learned of this rule early in my practice and I have always found its name intriguing.

The Assured Clear Distance Ahead Rule, which has apparently only been adopted in the First Department, provides that “[i]t is negligence as a matter of law to drive a motor vehicle at such a rate of speed that it cannot be stopped in time to avoid an obstruction discernible within the driver’s length of vision ahead of him. This rule is known generally as the ‘assured clear distance ahead’ rule * * * In application, the rule constantly changes as the motorist proceeds, and is measured at any moment by the distance between the motorist’s vehicle and the limit of his vision ahead, or by the distance between the vehicle and any intermediate discernible static or forward-moving object in the street or highway ahead constituting an obstruction in his path. Such rule requires a motorist in the exercise of due care at all times to see, or to know from having seen, that the road is clear or apparently clear and safe for travel, a sufficient distance ahead to make it apparently safe to advance at the speed employed.” (4A NY Jur, Automobiles and Other Vehicles, § 720; emphasis supplied.)” O’Farrell v. Inzeo, 74 A.D.2d 806 (1st Dept. 1980)

I suspect that the reason that it is not adopted in other departments is that it may be viewed as redundant in light of V&TL § 1129, which provides

“(a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

I must conclude by noting that I like the language of the Assured Clear Distance Ahead Rule better than that of V&TL. § 1129. I think it shows the charm of the common law over statutory law.

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