What Can Affect My Car’s Stopping Distance?

Let’s face it, driving is dangerous as anything can happen at any time whether it’s poor weather conditions, road hazards or bad drivers. At some point, we all have to perform an emergency braking manoeuvre and you want the shortest stopping distance possible. If you’re not careful and don’t take good care of your car, it’s increasingly difficult to avoid an accident. In this guide, we explore the dangers of poorly maintained tyres and brakes with advice on improving your vehicle’s stopping distance.

What Does Stopping Distance Mean?

Stopping distance consists mainly of two factors, namely thinking distance and braking distance. As the name suggests, thinking distance is the time it takes your brain to process information and react accordingly. Braking distance, on the other hand, refers to the length you travel from the moment you press the brake pedal to when the car comes to a complete stop.

Many elements can impact both of these factors and it’s in your best interest to pay close attention. If you want to ensure an optimal stopping distance, here are some of the things that can affect how fast you can stop your car.

Road Conditions And Stopping Distance

Many motorists don’t fully realise how much road conditions can impact stopping distance. When the road is wet, icy or covered in snow or sleet, it’s naturally more slippery which can double the stopping distance compared to dry weather.

Whilst wet conditions are dangerous, snow and ice can have an even bigger impact as there’s less grip for your tyres. As a result of less traction on the road surface, your stopping distance will increase.

Always keep a safe distance between you and the car in front. This way you can make sure you have enough time to apply the brake and come to a safe stop when necessary.

Tyres And Tyre Pressure

As we’ve discussed in the previous section, your tyres play a massive part in stopping distance. Besides having sufficient tyre tread, you need to check that you have the correct tyre pressure. This will ensure your car tyres have the maximum amount of contact with the road for added control and traction.

However, when tyres are over or under-inflated, the amount of contact between your tyres and the road is greatly reduced. Where underinflated tyres make more contact with the road on the outer edges, overinflated tyres make more contact in the centre.

Both can cause irregular and premature tyre wear which will reduce traction. This means your tyres are less effective at finding grip when needed most. By checking your tyre pressure every month (at least), and using the recommended PSI, you can better maintain your tyres.

Tyre Wear, Tread And Stopping Distances

We already know tyre wear is a vital factor in stopping distance which can be improved with better tread depth. Legally, you should replace your tyres when they reach 1.6mm of tread but to better your chances, experts recommend replacing tyres when the tread is at 3mm tread.

Some interesting statistics show that a car with new tyres travelling at 30mph on a wet road will come to a stop in 25.9 metres. The same car travelling in the same conditions on tyres with 3 mm of tread would come to a stop in 35 metres. Even though this is the legal limit, that’s still 35% further which is quite dangerous.

So, if you leave your tyres to reach a minimum of 1.6mm, the stopping distance increases to 43 metres. That is nearly double the stopping distance when driving on new tyres with 8mm of tread! To make it easier to find the best tyres for your car, you can reserve tyres online at Elite Garages.

Tyre Quality

We’ve extensively covered tyres as they are the only parts that connect your car to the road. Making sure your tyres are in good condition with sufficient tread is of the utmost importance. However, you can further improve stopping distance by fitting quality tyres and never using part-worn tyres.

Buying premium tyres will give you peace of mind that you are buying a quality product for added road safety. This is why many customers opt for brands such as Michelin, Pirelli, Goodyear, Bridgestone and Continental as well as Rapid Tyres which is our top mid-range tyre.

Related: ‘Guide To Buying The Right Tyres For Your Car

Driving At High Speeds

The adage of “speed kills” comes into play here as one of the only factors that impacts thinking distance and braking distance. It’s simple really; when you drive fast, your reaction time is shorter and the distance travelled before applying the brakes is much greater.

When travelling 20-40mph, it can take your car an average of 12 metres, or three car lengths to stop completely every 10mph. For that reason, it’s so important to adhere to the local speed limit and slow down, especially in residential areas.

When driving faster than 40mph, this stopping distance increases even further. A car travelling at 70mph on a motorway will take an average of 96 metres or 24 car lengths to come to a complete stop. Once again, this highlights the importance of keeping a safe distance between you and the car in front.

Brakes And Stopping Distance

Properly maintaining your brakes can make a significant difference to your stopping distance. Brake pads wear down over time and brake discs become grooved which is normal but not replacing them can result in brakes overheating and completely losing stopping power.

Wet roads and standing water can also affect brakes as moisture between the pads and discs can make them less effective. If you have driven through deep water, pump the brake pedal a few times while driving slowly and safely to dry them when you can.

Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol Or Drugs

It’s never OK to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs as it leaves you in an altered mental state. Driving whilst intoxicated is not only illegal but also exceptionally dangerous as it could take a few extra seconds to react to a hazard. This often leads to an otherwise avoidable fatal accident. The penalties in the UK for driving under the influence is a minimum 12-month driving ban, an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison.

Tyre Safety Checks To Maximise Stopping Distance

At Elite Garages we take vehicle and road safety seriously which is why we offer free vehicle safety checks. This includes tyres, suspension, wheel alignment, brakes, battery and a free summer safety check.

By performing regular car services, including brake replacement, you can rest assured your car has optimal stopping distance. For more information about our wide range of services, including MOTs, vehicle servicing and tyres, visit our website today. You can also follow our blog for all the latest motoring news, tips and how-to guides.