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HomeDrive SafeCar Stopping Distances Explained

Car Stopping Distances Explained

3 min read
Knowing your car stopping distances is extremely important to avoid a collision. There are various factors at play but, essentially, it is the sum of your reaction speed distance and your car’s braking response distance.

It’s important to be able to drive and stop safely, no matter the speed at which you are driving. Stopping your car effectively and safely is paramount to preventing a collision. The safe stopping distance essentially boils down to the simple fact that the faster you travel, the farther it takes for you to bring your car to a complete halt.

According to Singapore’s highway code, if you happen to be travelling at about 70km/h, your car would have travelled 20m before you actually react, and a further 40m before your car slows to a stop after applying the brakes. That means the total stopping distance amounts to 60m (20m + 40m), which is roughly 14 car lengths.

Three-Second RuleReaction Time
While reaction times may vary from driver to driver, the bottom line is that the car travels a fair bit before the driver can react to a situation and carry out preventative actions to avoid a collision. The average driver is unlikely to have the fast response of a racing professional when it comes to spotting a situation, evaluating a range of options, deciding which is the best one, and then finally taking action.

Studies have shown that the average driver takes between ½ and ¾ of a second to perceive a need to hit the brakes, and another ¾ of a second to shift his foot from the accelerator pedal to the brake pedal. Reaction times vary among drivers, but in the worst-case scenario, it will take a full 1.5 seconds between when you first start to realise you’re in trouble and before you even start to slow down!

Braking Distance
The other half of the stopping distance equation is the braking distance. This is the distance a car needs to travel before coming to a complete stop after the brakes have been applied. There are many factors that determine the duration of the braking distance, the most important of which would be the effectiveness of the brakes.

The three-second rule is thus a safety indicator of how far you should be behind the lead car no matter the speed. To apply this rule while driving, pick a landmark ahead of the car in front of you. Estimate when the car ahead has reached the landmark, then time how long it takes for you to reach that landmark from where you are. If it takes less than three seconds, you are travelling too closely to the car ahead of you.

Our response time can sometimes be negatively impacted by bad driving habits and behaviour. Distractions from the mobile phone, fatigue from work, or driving while under the influence of alcohol or medication can diminish alertness and delay response time.

Check Your Brakes And TyresTo ensure your brakes work as they should, make sure that the brake pads and rotors are checked regularly so that any potential issues can be sorted out before they become major problems.

The condition of the tyres should be checked as well. They should have the minimal tread depth of 1.6mm, which is also a legal requirement in Singapore. Tyres that are under-inflated means the brakes have to work extra-hard to be effective, which will in turn affect the braking distance of the car.

Ultimately, the responsibility of safe stopping distances lies with you, the driver. A speedster or a tailgater will be more prone to a collision, so do keep this in mind when you are out on the roads.

Sign Up For AA Singapore’s Crash Prevention Course
To address the consequences of unsafe driving behaviours, AA Singapore has come up with an online Crash Prevention Course for both new and experienced drivers, as well as fleet managers. This highly interactive programme includes driving scenario simulations, videos and even a first-person account of a fatal crash. Interested? Click here for further information.