Kim Henson slows down and investigates…
Whenever you are driving, for any given speed you really do need to know the distance it would take your car to come to a halt, including your ‘thinking’ time and actually operating the brakes to bring the vehicle to a standstill. Indeed this information is included within the Highway Code (the stopping distances being given for speeds between 20 and 70 mph, in 10 mph increments) and questions on this aspect are often asked within the ‘theory’ part of the UK’s Driving Test. So if you are learning to drive, knowing and understanding the facts and figures is essential in all ways.
Whether you are a new driver or have years of experience behind you, the reason that you need to know your stopping distances is perhaps obvious, but becomes thrown into sharp focus if, for example, you think of a child or indeed anyone stepping off a kerb and into the road, some distance in front of you. The question you need to ask yourself (and answer honestly) is: Would you be able to stop your car before hitting them?
To establish just how much you already know, and how much more you need to learn or catch up on, it is worth taking a new online test, provided by telematics insurance specialists ‘WiseDriving’. To take the quiz, please go to: https://www.wisedriving.com/stopping-distances
I have just had a go at this quiz myself, and I found it very useful to highlight/reinforce my knowledge of the stopping distances when travelling at different road speeds, and to indicate some aspects that I need to check again, for safety and my own peace of mind.
The quiz helps participants to think about not just the ‘standard’ braking distances (in dry conditions with good tyres, etc.) but also to consider the effect that, for example, wet or icy road surfaces have in terms of extending the distances required.
When considering the distances, it may help to think about them not just as bare figures in feet or metres, but in terms of car lengths or bus lengths, i.e. working out how many cars or buses would fit length-wise into the space required to stop!
It should go without saying that in order for your vehicle to stop within the minimum possible time and road distance covered, the vehicle’s brakes must be in excellent, well-maintained condition (have them checked/serviced at least once each year), in addition to which the tyres need to be in excellent order and correctly inflated to the manufacturer’s specified pressures.
The driver also needs to be alert, of course, and constantly aware that adverse weather conditions and their effects (including poor visibility due to rain or fog, etc, but especially reduced grip on the road due to wet or ice-covered surfaces) will considerably lengthen the stopping distances required.
I advise/encourage you to take this test, which only take a very few minutes; you might be surprised at how well (or otherwise) you do. The test is available at: https://www.wisedriving.com/stopping-distances
How did I do? Well, apparently I scored 90 per cent. I was quite pleased with this figure (in fact I often go through the braking distances in my own mind while I am driving), but genuinely concerned about the 10 per cent that I didn’t get right. In any event it has made me look again at these vitally important braking distance facts and figures!