How To Work Out Stopping Distance, Thinking Distance & Braking Distance

Author Name – Ben Garner


In this blog, we’ll discuss how you can quickly figure out your stopping distance, and why it’s a crucial part of driving. Tailgating is one of the top causes of crashes on UK roads, according to National Highways. This is caused by not leaving enough space for the car in front, meaning you don’t have a big enough braking distance.

stopping distance

What is stopping distance and why is it important?

Stopping distance is the distance your car travels between noticing a hazard and stopping your vehicle by braking. It is a crucial part of driving as if you’re not leaving the right amount of braking distance, you could be involved in a collision if there is a hazard in front of you.

Stopping distance can be affected by a number of variables, which is why it’s very important to always leave a large amount of space should you need to brake. Your stopping distance can be affected by the weather, speed, alertness, brake quality and tyres. To have a FREE safety check done on your car to ensure you can brake quickly, click the button below.

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If you are travelling at a fast speed in your vehicle, it will take longer to stop. This is why speed limits are enforced, as in different areas if you’re speeding you may not be able to stop if a person or object was to stop in front of you.

In larger vehicles such as vans or lorries, the braking distance will be even larger due to their increase in mass. Make sure to always leave plenty of space for larger vehicles, so that you can react in time should anything happen whilst driving.


How to calculate stopping distances

Stopping distances are dependent on the size of your vehicle and the speed at which you are travelling. The larger the vehicle and the faster you’re driving means the longer it will take for your car to stop.

On average, if you’re travelling below 50mph you should leave at least 30 metres to the car in front. Any speed above 50mph and you should leave a minimum of 40metres to the car ahead. This is according to the latest braking distance figures published by the highway code.

To calculate the stopping distance, add together thinking distance and braking distance.


What is thinking distance?

Thinking distance is the amount of distance which your vehicle travels between detecting a hazard and reacting to it. Thinking time is usually between 0.5-2 seconds, though this can be impacted by other factors such as driver awareness. This means it is very important to be alert all the time whilst driving, in order to reduce thinking distance.

Thinking distance is roughly 1 foot for every 1 mile per hour, such as 20 feet for 20mph.


What is braking distance?

Braking distance is the amount of distance your vehicle travels between the brakes being applied and your car stopping. The braking distance can be tricky to calculate due to many factors, such as tyre grip, worn brake pads or weather conditions. One way to calculate the rough braking distance is by multiplying the speed you are travelling at in intervals of 0.5, starting at 2 for 2mph.

For example, 30mph would be x2.5, so the stopping distance would be 75 feet.

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