Drivers fail to correctly anticipate braking distances

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New research from Kwik Fit has indicated that only one in ten drivers were able to currently estimate stopping distances, with nearly half (45%) of all drivers underestimating the distance needed to stop at speed – putting themselves and their fellow motorists in serious danger.

The survey revealed that whilst travelling at 70 mph (112 km/h), the average driver misjudged the stopping distance by 18.9 metres, the equivalent of nearly five car lengths.  Only one in 10 drivers (10%) correctly put the distance at between 91-100 metres. Official figures calculate that it takes 96 metres to come to a stop from 70 mph.

In fact as many as 15% of motorists gave the stopping distance at 70mph as being under 50 metres, around half the actual figure. 13% erred on the side of caution and overstated the distance, while 31% admitted they did not know.

Roger Griggs, Communications Director at Kwik Fit, said: “Many accidents appear to be unavoidable, but giving other cars the right amount of distance does a great deal to minimise the risks.  It’s vital that drivers know their stopping distances.”

This ignorance of stopping distances could be one reason for motorists driving too closely on motorways.  More than a quarter of drivers (27%) believe the minimum recommended distance between vehicles at 70mph is 30 metres or under, while amongst all drivers, the average figure stated was 52.6 metres.  This is a full 10 metres shorter than the recommended distance of 62.6 metres, based on keeping at least a two second gap between cars.

Even at slower speeds, many drivers are making incorrect assumptions.  At 60mph, the average motorist underestimated the overall stopping distance by 10.7 metres and at 50mph by 4.1 metres.

Worryingly, almost one in three drivers (30%) was unable to give any figure at all for the average stopping distances at 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70mph.

Greater education of drivers about stopping distances could help increase the number who keep the recommended distance from the car in front.  Only 15% of motorists say they do this all the time while 17% confess that this is ‘rarely’, or only ‘sometimes’, the case.

The Kwik Fit research shows that young drivers appear to be forgetting their stats quicker than the older generation. 18-24 year old drivers said the overall stopping distance at 70mph is 64 metres, a huge 32 metres short of the actual figure.  Drivers over 55 give an average stopping distance at 70mph of 83 metres, still 13 metres under the correct figure.