§ 1129 of the NYS VTL sets forth that a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”.
What constitutes “reasonable and prudent” is of course a bit of a judgment call by the issuing police officer. This is clearly a subjective standard.
In order to establish a charge of following too closely, an issuing officer must be able to offer some testimony regarding:
-Speed: A safe distance at one speed may not be a safe distance at a higher speed.
-Distance: It would be just about impossible for an officer to allege “too close” without further information regarding the distance between the vehicles.
-Time: In some situations, a vehicle may inadvertently and unavoidably end up “too close” to another vehicle due to lane changes or other traffic patterns. In such a situation, the trailing vehicle should be given some reasonable opportunity to correct the situation by slowing down or safely moving to a different lane. An issuing officer should thus be required to establish the duration of time that a vehicle was driving “too closely” to another in order to avoid convicting a motorist whose vehicle may have been in such a position for only a very short period of time.
A conviction for following too closely carries four (4) points in NYS.