Stopping Distance at High Speeds
When you travel at a high speed, you reduce the time that you have to identify a situation, press the brake in response, and slow down your car. These three components, the perception, reaction and stopping distances comprise the total stopping distance of your vehicle. Imagine that it takes you one second to recognize a dangerous situation before you move your foot to the brake pedal. The higher your speed, the more distance you will cover during that single second.
When traveling 60 mph, you will travel 88 feet before you even apply the brakes! However, if you were traveling at 30 mph, you would have only traveled 44 feet before pressing the brakes. This concept is known as a driver’s reaction distance. After you hit the brakes is another story entirely. If you were traveling 20 mph in good road conditions, it would take about 20 feet for your car to come to a stop. However, when you increase the speed, the numbers increase dramatically. You might expect that doubling the speed would simply double the distance, but in reality it can quadruple the distance it takes to stop your car! This means that if you were to travel at 40 mph, it would take around 76 feet to bring your car to a stop.
Why This Matters
Realizing that speed can significantly change every single factor involved in a vehicle’s total stopping distance is critical. It takes longer to stop when you’re traveling faster, which is why it’s absolutely necessary to be vigilant of your surroundings and have a cushion of space around your car. Simply put, drivers that understand this concept are better able to prepare. This information is based only on good driving conditions, which means that heavier vehicles and non-ideal weather such as wet or icy conditions can drastically add to the braking distance. This is why it is so important to double or triple your following distance in non-ideal conditions.