Stopping distances are something every driver needs to consider and be a stumbling block for those taking their driving theory test, understanding these are vital to ensure you pass your theory test and stay safe on the road. During your lessons, your driving instructor will help you understand the theory behind this, give practical tips, and may question you on the stopping distances and how to stay safe.

Conditions on the road affect stopping distances, from the volume of traffic to weather conditions as a driver you need to assess the conditions constantly while driving to ensure you leave enough space to brake and stop safely.

Stopping distance can be broken down into a simple formula (don’t worry we are not going to make this a maths or science lesson).

Thinking distance + Braking distance = Stopping distance

Thinking Distance

Thinking distance is the amount of time it takes for you to see a hazard and start to brake. The faster you are driving the further you will travel before your reflexes kick in and you brake. You should also take into consideration tiredness, as a lack of sleep may mean that your reaction time is not as quick as usual. Distractions, noise in the car, mobile, etc you need to ensure that your focus is on your driving and be aware that any distraction will extend the braking time and could be catastrophic. Drugs and alcohol can severely impact your reaction time and you should never drive while under the influence.

Braking Distance

Braking distance is defined as the amount of time that it takes for your car to stop once you have started to brake. The faster your speed, the longer it will take, which affects the distance that you need to leave between your vehicle and others on the road.

Weather conditions can have a massive impact on stopping distances, if it is wet or icy it takes much longer to stop than normal. If it’s wet or muddy it’s recommended to leave double the amount of space between you and the car in front, when it’s icy or there is snow up to 10 times the normal distance. The condition of your brakes and tyres can also affect braking distance and you should check or get your car checked regularly by a mechanic.

Below is a general guides to stopping distances

20mph – Thinking 6m + Braking 6m = Stopping 12m (around 3 car lengths)

30mph – Thinking 9m + Braking 14m = Stopping 23m

40mph – Thinking 12m + Braking 24m = Stopping 36m

50mph – Thinking 15m + Braking 38m = Stopping 53m

60mph – Thinking 18m + Braking 55m = Stopping 73m

70mph – Thinking 21m + Braking 75m = Stopping 96m

Top Theory Test Tip

Don’t get caught out in your theory test, one very common problem that candidates face is that they don’t read the question properly, especially if nerves have kicked in. Always make sure that you read the question at least twice and take your time.  If you finish early go back, re-read the questions and ensure you have understood the question and answered everything correctly.