drivers, drive in a false belief that if the car in
front suddenly started braking, they would react and
brake and end up stopped the same distance apart.
The total stopping distance of a vehicle is made up
of 4 components.
Human Perception Time
Human Reaction Time
Vehicle Reaction Time
Vehicle Braking Capability
The human perception time is how long the driver takes
to see the hazard, and the brain realize it is a hazard
requiring an immediate reaction. This perception time
can be as long as ¼ to ½ a second.
the brain realizes danger, the human reaction time is how
long the body takes to move the foot from accelerator to brake
pedal. Again this reaction time can vary from ¼ - ¾ of a second.
These first 2 components of stopping distance are human factors
and as such can be effected by tiredness, alcohol, fatigue
and concentration levels. A perception and reaction time of
3 or 4 seconds is possible. 4 seconds at 100 km/hr means the
car travels 110 metres before the brakes are applied.
Once the brake pedal is applied there is the vehicles reaction
time which depends on the brake pedal free-play, hydraulic
properties of the brake fluid and working order of the braking
This is why the tailgating car usually cannot stop, when the
brake light came on in the car in front, this driver had already
completed the perception, human and vehicle reaction periods.
The following driver was perhaps 1 second to late in applying
the brakes. At 100km/hr the car required 28 metres further
The last factor than determines the total stopping distance
is the cars braking capability which depends on factors such
The type of braking system
Brake pad material
Tyre tread and grip Vehicle weight
The co-efficient of friction of the road surface
Slope of road
The braking technique applied by the driver (and/or ABS
noting is that from 50 to 100 kph the braking distance of
a car will increase from 10 metres to 40 metres. When you
double the speed of a car braking distance quadruples.
This is based on the laws of physics. When a car is moving
it has kinetic energy, ½mv2. When the velocity
doubles the kinetic energy quadruples. The braking capability
does not increase when driving faster, there are no reserves
of friction. As such in any vehicle when your speed doubles
braking distance is four times larger.
If the driver is aware of the hazard ahead and knows exactly
what to do and when to do it, then The "thinking distance"
that the Highway Code talks about is actually the time taken
to transfer your foot (or on a motorcycle fingers and foot)
to the brakes and begin to apply them. So in reality it's
not "thinking distance", it's REACTION distance - and it's
this reaction time that is commonly measured as being approximately
However, to react promptly, the driver has to be already aware
of the hazard and ready to brake, just like when doing the
emergency stop for the examiner on test! You have to be thinking
"I'm going to need to brake" and just be waiting for the correct
moment - in the case of the driving test, your cue is the
examiner banging his clipboard on the dash!
However, in real driving, the driver needs to SEE the developing
situation, IDENTIFY the fact there is a threat and then DECIDE
if the required RESPONSE is to brake.
Vehicle weight Weight is something that has to be considered during towing.
If the trailer being towed does not have any braking system
then the total weight of car and trailer is added together
and spread over just the four braking tyres of the towing
vehicle. If the trailer has a braking system then the weight
is dispersed over all braking tyres and will give better stopping
distances. On a wet or slippery surface the lack of brakes
on a trailer will have much more effect on total stopping
distances than in the dry.