Around 63% of the British population currently hold a valid driving license, and at this time of year, in particular, it is more important than ever to know about the factors which affect stopping distance.
The time it takes you to stop isn’t only calculated using the time it takes you to actually press the brake pedal. There are many different factors which must be taken into account, and a big influence on stopping distance is the speed you’re travelling.
The most obvious reason for this is that the faster you’re travelling, the more distance you will cover in the time it takes you to recognise a hazard, identify that you need to stop, and then press the brake. This is known as ‘thinking distance’ and just a few extra miles per hour can alter it greatly. Thinking distance at 70 mph is around 21 metres – this means that before they have even made the decision to stop, the average person has already travelled about two and a half times the length of a London bus. You may not think this is too long, however, this is not inclusive of the time it then takes for the car to come to a stop once the brake is applied.
Once the brake is applied, the time between this and when the car comes to a complete stop is the braking distance, and when these are both added together this equals the overall stopping distance.
At 30 mph braking distance is 14 metres, but, by the time you’re hitting 70 mph this then jumps up to 75 metres; that’s over the length of the wingspan of a 747 aeroplane!
Around this time of year especially, road conditions can have an adverse impact on overall stopping distance. Unlike other factors, unfortunately, the weather is something you can’t have any control over, but it can influence how your tyres interact with the road surface.
As the road surface becomes wetter or slippery due to the weather, the friction between the tyres and the road and how the two collaborate changes. This means that it takes longer for a car to stop – and in some cases can even result in the driver skidding on the road.
Along with altering the road conditions, the weather can also inhibit your view of the road. Although this doesn’t increase your braking distance, it can impede your reaction time and therefore contribute to an overall increase of stopping distance.
To combat the additional challenges that come with driving in adverse weather it’s vital to take more care when driving, leave more space between you and the vehicle in front, and in some cases changing your tyres to winter ones such as the Goodyear Ugrip Performance G1 can help decrease stopping distance in colder/wetter weather, amongst other Goodyear tyres.
As mentioned briefly earlier, tyre choice and condition has a direct effect on overall stopping distance.
The minimum, legal tyre tread in the UK is 1.6mm, this being said although you can still technically drive on tyres with this amount of tread, stopping distance can still greatly suffer as it drops below 3mm.
On top of tread, the type of tyres used during different times of the year can also have an impact on how your car interacts with the surface of the road. For example, during the warmer months, summer tyres such as the Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac are composed of a softer rubber, meaning that in temperatures above 7℃ they improve your car’s stopping distance and overall performance.
Alternatively, as the temperature decreases, it can be wise to switch to a winter tyre like the Goodyear UltraGrip Performance 2. Amongst other enhancements, this tyre has deeper grooves designed to allow it to grip to snow and ice, preventing it from becoming an issue with handling/stopping distances.
It goes without saying that the condition of a car’s brakes will have a bearing on its overall stopping distance. ABS is commonplace in most vehicles these days, but although these are useful, the overall condition of your brakes is just as important when it comes to stopping distance.
To work effectively, brake pads use a block of friction which is applied to the brake disc whenever the brake pedal is pressed. This act of friction is what helps the car to stop, however over time this block begins to wear down making the brakes less effective.
Many cars brakes are fitted with a wear indicator, this piece of metal found on the brake pad will make a sharp, squeaking noise when it has worn down – indicating that the brakes need to be looked at and probably replaced.