BOISE -- Police say tailgating is a common and dangerous problem on Idaho roads, and now, there's a new tool to crack down on drivers who follow too closely.
Idaho State Police officers are using technology to help keep crashes few and far between.
The device is called Lidar - it emits a laser beam to calculate speed and distance and determine if the driver's following too closely.
And chances are, the officer you see watching traffic, can tell how close you really are.
A four-car pileup at the intersection of Highways 55 and 44 Tuesday morning snarled traffic at a time when many people were on their way to work. Police say the driver in the back was following too closely and didn't see the other cars stopped in front of her.
“We just see people that aren't following at distances that are reasonable or prudent,” said ISP Cpl. John Gibbs.
Gibbs says tailgating is a common problem on Idaho roads.
In 2006, there were more than 3,600 crashes, three fatalities and 109 critical injuries linked to following too closely.
Some ISP troopers are now equipped with a special device called Lidar, which uses a laser to measure speed and distance to determine if a driver is breaking the law.
“Thirty-six miles per hour. The second vehicle was .07 seconds away from the first vehicle. The distance between the two was 39.2 feet,” said Gibbs.
That's too close for comfort and against the law, which can translate into a ticket for an inattentive driver.
Idaho law calls for a "reasonable and prudent" distance between vehicles. The driver's handbook suggests three seconds.
Using ISP vehicles, Gibbs demonstrated that if those rules aren't followed, sudden braking by the vehicle in front, combined with reaction time, could result in a crash.
“For an unexpected event, you're thinking about what's for dinner, what happened at work today, and something happens where someone takes an immediate avoidance of an object or a vehicle. Whatever the case may be, you're not going to get stopped if you're following too close,” said Gibbs. “We're hoping to reduce the crashes down to zero. Obviously that's an ideal world. I don't think that will ever happen. At the same time if we can educate people about following at a reasonable and prudent distance, we should avoid some of these problems.”
A ticket for following too closely can bring a $62 fine.
Also this month, the Idaho Transportation Department is kicking off the "Click it or Ticket" program - enforcing Idaho’s seat belt law.
ISP officers, along with 45 other agencies, will be out in full force between May 21st and June 3rd to make sure motorists are buckled up.