Braking safely is something that all drivers learn about before passing their test, and part of your theory test will even cover safe braking distances to minimise accidents when you need to hit the brakes in an emergency situation.
There are a number of different factors to consider when it comes to braking and knowing how far to leave between yourself and the car in front. We take a look at a few here.
Know your system
The age of your car will normally determine what sort of brakes you have, but finding out your braking system can help you judge how far you need to leave as a safe braking distance.
If you have standard brakes, chances are that in an emergency when you press the brake pedal, the wheels will stop totally. This can cause a bit of a skid which means your car takes a little longer to slow to a stop.
On the other hand, if you have a newer car you might have ABS, a system that is becoming more and more common. These employ a computer which reads when the brakes have been pressed, applying the brakes intermittently, allowing the wheels still to turn as the car stops and allowing it to slow faster.
Be aware of the conditions
While you might be confident in braking safely, you need to be aware of how the conditions can affect your ability to stop your car in good time. For example, wet or icy conditions will mean that the distance it takes to come to a full stop will increase greatly.
The road itself is not the only factor that you should consider when judging how much distance to leave between you and the car in front, though. If it's foggy on the road, poor visibility can lead to an increased reaction time, so you need to leave longer between cars again.
Having the right tyres
Having the right kind of tyres on your car can make a big difference when it comes to safely braking. Many people may think that a tyre is a tyre, but when it comes to effectively stopping your vehicle, there can be big discrepancies between the distance it takes to come to a safe stop.
Michelin tyres, for example, will stop a car safely within the space of 59.5 metres in wet conditions when driving at 70mph. This compares favourably to two of the company's premium competitors, which come in at 62.1 metres and 64.3 metres respectively.
Budget tyres can perform even worse in wet conditions, with the stopping distances going up as high as 76 metres and 82.4 metres for some brands. It's not just when the road is wet that there's a disparity, though. In dry conditions, Michelin also comes out ahead of its competitors – have a look at the different braking distances here. Michelin tyres also perform far better than the official government recommended stopping distances.
While we can rely on premium tyres to give us the best chance of stopping, it's also important that drivers are aware of their own abilities – thinking time also contributes to how long it takes you to come to a stop. Average reaction time is 0.67 seconds, but it can change from person to person.
Posted by Danielle Barge