It is easy to mistakenly believe that your braking distance is just how long it takes for your vehicle to come to a complete stop after noticing a hazard ahead of you. However, it is more accurate to refer to it as your stopping distance, and it is important to distinguish between these two.
When your brain initially recognises there is a road obstacle ahead that you need to react to, your car will continue traveling for the time between your recognition and you when you apply the brakes. So the distance that is covered is the thinking distance, and that should be added onto the braking distance.
When you do this, your total stopping distance is calculated. So, your reaction time then feeds into the distance – and you will be able to reduce your reaction time through improving your concentration, watching your surroundings while you are driving, and minimising distractions such as mobile phones.
However, that leaves us wondering what affects braking distance, which is the other part of your equation. There are numerous factors that have to do with the actual vehicle, as can be seen in the following list. For each potential problem that is listed, we also have explained how it can be improved.
The Speed of the Car
It probably won’t be a surprise to you that, the faster that a vehicle travels, the longer that it will take for it to stop after the brakes have been applied. This is another reason why you should always keep inside of the speed limit. The Highway Coded offers official braking distance examples.
According to those figures, if you are driving 20 miles per hour it could leave you with a braking distance of 6 metres. When driving 30 miles per hour it doubles to 14 metres – and the braking distance is much higher as a result of the speed of the vehicle.
For example, when braking at 70 miles per hour that will land you at a 75-metre braking distance. That amount is daunting – and keep in mind that there a number of other factors that may affect the braking distance of your vehicle also, which means that those figures are not set in stone at all.
Rotors and Brake Pads
There is likely a wear indicator on your vehicle – which is a piece of metal that is attached to its brake pad. With repeated use, the regular pad material wears off, and the metal piece touches the brake rotor and produces a sharp squeaking sound, which indicates that the brake pads need to be replaced.
A garage that does car repairs in Reading or other areas near London, can replace the rotors if you notice any excessively deep marks or circular indents. Even what might initially appear to be minor leaks or cracks in the pads may have a significant drag on the braking efficiency of your vehicle.
When did you last replace your car’s tyres? If that appears to be a distant memory, then that can be a concern, since the quality of the tyres on your vehicle and the braking distance may be affected. Out on the road, your tyres tread depth in many cases should exceed the 1.6mm legal minimum, ideally.
To what extent? Some clarity has been added to this issue by a Michelin tyres test and revealed that when you break to reduce your speed from 56 mph down to 43 mph, even a drop of 1.0 bar in the air pressure of your tyre could extend your braking distance an additional 5 metres.
A critical part is also played by your driving behaviour. Therefore, before heading out on the road, it is important to assess the weather condition and terrain that you will be facing on your trip. Then you should ensure that you maintain an appropriate speed for those conditions.
This is a type of situation where the speed limit is not the only thing that should be taken into account. For example, your driving speed should be tailored to react to treacherous weather such as heavy rain. Research shows that wet weather can double braking distances, and ice or snow can multiply it by 10. That can prove to be very sobering.