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Understanding your stopping distances

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 year ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • good

Keeping safe on the roads is important, and we all know that brakes play a big part in that.

Even if you keep a safe stopping distance, without functioning brakes, there's no guarantee you'll be able to avoid a collision if something unexpected happens on the road.

Your braking distance is the distance it takes for your car to come to a complete stop from when the brake is first applied. You can work out vehicle stopping distances for different speeds by combining your braking distance with thinking distance.


There's a popular saying that can help you keep a safe distance from the car in front no matter what speed you are travelling at: 'only a fool breaks the two-second rule.' When the car in front of you passes a certain object or marker - say, a lamppost at the side of the road - it should be two seconds before you pass that same object. If it's less than that, you need to slow down and keep your distance.

How do I work out stopping distances?

Stopping distance is a driving theory test favourite that many of us sharply forget when taking to the roads for real. However, the stopping distance formula is handy to retain for quick calculations which ensure road safety.

The formula asks for you to multiply the speed you are travelling at by intervals of 0.5, starting with 2 which will give you your stopping distance in feet.

20mph x 2 = 40 feet

30mph x 2.5 = 75 feet

40mph x 3 = 120 feet

50mph x 3.5 = 175 feet

60mph x 4 = 240 feet

70mph x 4.5 = 315 feet

If you work in metrics, simply divide the distance (in feet) listed above by 3.3 to get the stopping distances in metres.

Thinking distance is quite simply how long it takes for the driver to react to a hazard and then to brake.

The slower the car is travelling, the shorter the overall stopping distance. The stopping distance at 70mph at motorway speed is of around 100m.

How do you check that your brakes are working?

To ensure that your brakes are working properly you can perform a check on your brake conditions.

Park on a flat and clear road by gently applying pressure to the brake pedal. A lack of resistance when doing so, and your feet reaching the floor with ease is an indication of brake problems. Whereas an adequate amount of resistance to the pressure you are placing on the pedal, is a sign that your brakes are functioning well.

Factors that can affect braking distance

Weather   The stopping distance of cars is likely to be longer in adverse weather conditions. Not only does wet, snowy or icy weather extend the braking distance for wheels, the poor visibility will also increase thinking distance.

Driver   Consumption of drugs and alcohol whilst driving is illegal and hugely affects reaction time. Other dangerous distractions include the use of a mobile phone (which is also against the law), as well as loud music and disruptive passengers.

Car Condition   Tyre condition maintains a safe stopping distance, under-inflated tyres have a huge impact on the distance it takes for your car to stop. Aforementioned, poorly maintained brakes also have a huge impact on your car’s stopping distance.

For a full analysis of your brake functions to ensure complete safety and overall great condition, you can apply for a brake check on our site. Choose from garages in your local area based on customer reviews and price quotes on WhoCanFixMyCar. Find brake repair quotes in your local area

For more information on brake functions and repairs, you can consult our blog post on how to tell when your brakes need servicing.