Here we’ll explain what are stopping distances at different speeds and what affects them, and how best to remember them.
Like tread depths, stopping distance figures don’t tend to mean much, to the point where they’re often forgotten as soon as they’ve been remembered for a driving theory test. But following too closely to other cars is one of the biggest causes of road accidents in the UK and knowing your stopping distances is a crucial part of staying safe on the roads.
Stopping Distances At Different Speeds
But before we do, we hope that if you remember one thing from this article, then it’s that you should always leave enough room between your car and the one in front.
And if you’re like us, then one motoring bugbear will be other drivers lane-hopping into the space you’re leaving when on the motorway, but there’s nothing you can do about others. Leaving enough distance between you and the car in front will:
- Give you a better view of the road ahead.
- Let you react and stop in time if cars ahead suddenly brakes.
- Help with fuel economy – you’ll drive more smoothly and won’t be braking every time the car in front slows down.
What is stopping distance?
Stopping distances at different speeds is the time that it takes to bring a moving car to a complete stop. This includes
The time it takes you to react to the hazard (thinking distance), and
The time it takes for the brakes to stop the car (braking distance)
You can calculate it with this stopping distance formula:
Stopping distance = thinking distance + braking distance
Some factors to bear in mind:
Stopping distances vary depending on factors like the weather and your driving speed.
The stopping distance at 20mph is around 3 car lengths. At 50mph it’s around 13 car lengths. If you’re traveling at 70mph, the stopping distance will be more like 24 car lengths.
What is thinking distance?
This is the distance your car travels between you spotting a hazard and starting to brake.
If the car in front slams on its brakes, then no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to brake immediately. It’ll take you time (and distance) to react to what’s happening, decide to brake, and then hit the pedal.
The Highway Code bases its thinking distances on a thinking time of just under 0.7 seconds. The faster you’re going, the further you’ll travel in that time.
The thinking distance at 50mph is 15m, nearly the length of 2 London buses. At 70mph, the thinking distance will be about 21m.
What else you can do to improve your stopping distances?
Get some good quality tyres fitted to your car! We’re stating the obvious when saying that there are only four points of your car that are in contact with the roads at any given time – so make sure that they’re as good as they can be and don’t scrimp by way of budget tyre alternatives. Your stopping distances demand you don’t do this as you pay for what you get.
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