A mistake that people make is thinking that their braking distance is simply the length of time it takes for your car to stop after noticing a hazard ahead. However, this is actually the stopping distance and it is important to distinguish between the two.
When you first notice that there is a road obstacle that you need to react to, your vehicle is going to continue travelling between the moment of recognition and your application of the brakes. The distance that it covered in this time is the thinking distance. This distance will need to be added to the braking distance.
When you do this, you are able to calculate your stopping distance. As your reaction time will impact this distance and you can shorten your reaction time by improving your concentration. To do this, you need to keep distractions like your phone away and keep your eyes on your surroundings when you drive.
While this will improve your reaction time, you also need to know what affects your braking distance as this makes up the other part of the calculation. Many of the factors will do with your car itself. For each issue, there are steps that you can take to improve it.
The Speed Of The Car
It is not surprising that the faster a car travels, the longer it will take to stop after the brakes are applied. This is one of the reasons why you need to keep to the speed limit at all times. The Highway Code has a lot of examples of official braking distances as well.
According to them, when you drive at 20 miles per house, you will have a 6-metre breaking distance. Once you increase the speed to 30 miles per house, this distance doubles to 14 metres. The increase is distance is directly related to the increase in the speed the vehicle travels.
When you apply the brakes after travelling at 75 miles per hour, you will have a braking distance of 75 metres. This is a huge distance and there are other factors that could increase it more.
The Brake Pads
It is likely that your vehicle has a wear indicator which is a piece of metal attached to the brake pads. When the material on the pads wears over time, the metal will make contact with the brake rotor. This is what produces the sharp squeaking sound when you brake and is a sign that you need to have your brake pads replaced.
If you notice any deep circular indents in the rotors, a garage will be able to replace or machine them. Minor cracks and leaks in the brake pads can also have a significant impact on the braking efficiency of your vehicle.
Do you know when your tyres were last replaced? If you have to really think about this, it is likely that it has been too long. This is important because the quality of your tyres will affect your braking distance. The tread depth on your tyres should exceed the legal minim of 1.6mm when you are using your vehicle.
A Michelin tyre test showed how important your tyres are when it comes to braking. This test found that when you reduce your speed from 56 mph to 43 mph, a fall of 1 bar of tyre pressure can increase the braking distance by 5 metres.
The Driving Conditions
While your car plays a large role in your braking distance, your driving behaviour is also very important. This is why you need to always check what the weather conditions will be and the terrain you will encounter. It is important that you always maintain a speed that takes these conditions into account and is appropriate for them.
You should not only be thinking about the speed limit when driving. You also need to consider if there are inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain and tailor your driving to this. Wet weather will double braking distance with ice and snow increasing this distance by up to 10 times.