A space cushion. This is something they tell you about in defensive driving class. What is a space cushion? It sounds top secret. Like something, NASA and the government need to keep hidden in order to protect us from beings from outer space. That’s right. Space beings. Aliens. Martians from a distant planet, maybe Mars, who have entered our atmosphere and are looking for a way to relax. After all, space travel must be exhausting. Imagine sitting there, in your UFO spacecraft seat, for millions of miles. Completely tiring. No wonder those men from Mars need a space cushion. A place to lay down their big brainy heads for a little cat nap.

No, sorry, that’s not what a space cushion is. Although, that is a novel idea. So, what exactly is a space cushion?

What is a Space Cushion?

A space cushion is an area around your vehicle that is just empty space. No other vehicles are in that space. The space cushion area includes the space in front of, behind, and on both sides of your car.

Why Have a Space Cushion?

A space cushion gives you time and opportunity to avoid collision with another vehicle. If you don’t have a space cushion, then any sudden movements by other vehicles can catch you with no way out of the situation. In fact, with no space cushion around your vehicle, you have limited options if you yourself have a sudden emergency or a sudden movement. Consider this: Imagine you’re driving in your car, and one of your tires blows. The sudden drop in tire pressure will likely cause your vehicle to swerve dramatically to one side. You obviously won’t know which side your car will swerve on, because it came out of the blue. You could swerve right into another car, or even a pedestrian. This is why you want to have a space cushion.

How to Make a Space Cushion

First, you don’t need sewing lessons to make a space cushion. We thought we cleared up all that nonsense about aliens needing naps about two paragraphs ago. So please put away the needle and thread. And the thimble. Okay, let’s get down to the business of defensive driving by making a space cushion.

First, you want to have at least a three-second delay from the rear end of the vehicle in front of you to the front of your car. This is the easiest part of the space cushion to make. As you’re driving, pay attention to the signs on the side of the road. If you’re on the freeway, you can use the signs overhead. As the car in front passes by the sign, count to three (yes, you can use Mississippi). Your car shouldn’t pass that same sign before you’ve reached three. If it has, you’re following too closely. Slow down, Speed Racer.

Second, you want the car behind you to slow down so there’s a three-second delay between you. Now, you can’t tell that driver how to drive. But you can let that driver pass if he insists on tailgating you, (maybe he has to get to a bathroom or something. Who knows)? Anyway, just let him go by.

Finally, you don’t want any cars next to you. How do you manage this? By adjusting your speed either up or down so that you aren’t riding along with James Dean’s style in some kind of misconceived road race on the highway.

Now that you know what a space cushion in, why it’s necessary, and how to make one, you’d best be on your way. Leave plenty of time between your departure and your arrival so you’re never the one tailgating.