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New York City is a crowded place when it comes to vehicular traffic; the attitude among many drivers is that congested city streets are no place for the timid. Still, certain legal boundaries exist  that are meant to prevent a "Wild West" environment on the roads, and one of them is the prohibition against following too closely.

The law itself – section 1129 of the New York vehicle and traffic law – provides minimal guidance on what constitutes following too closely. It only prohibits drivers from falling another vehicle "... more closely that is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway." This begs the question of what is "reasonable and prudent" when it comes to the distance interval between the front of your car and the rear of the vehicle in front of you. Although some general rules of thumb can help, such as the one-car-length-four-every-10-files-per-hour suggestion, if you are cited for following too closely the issue is really a subjective one between you and the police officer who issued you the citation.

If you simply acquiesce to the charge, the consequences to you can be surprisingly serious: in addition to a fine, you can also incur four points onto your driver's license and possibly an increase in your insurance premiums. Therefore, it may be to your advantage to contest the citation in court with the assistance of a traffic attorney who has experience with defending such matters.

Of course, the best way to avoid a charge of following too closely is to use your best judgment: for example, if you think that you are so close behind the vehicle in front of you that if it were to brake suddenly you would not have time to stop before hitting it, then you are probably following too closely. And it almost goes without saying that if you do rear-end another vehicle, that is almost a res ipsa loquitur demonstration of what it means to follow too closely. But if you believe that you were behaving reasonably and still received a citation, then consulting with a New York City traffic attorney may be your best option under the circumstances.

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