Highway Code stopping distances should be increased – Brake

12.00 | 25 July 2017 | | 9 comments

Stopping distances in the UK Highway Code should be increased because driver thinking time has been underestimated, according to the road safety charity Brake.

Brake asked TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) to provide evidence to show the time taken by car drivers to perceive, recognise and react to emergency situations.

TRL calculated that the average thinking time is 1.5 seconds – more than double the 0.67 seconds set out in the Highway Code.

Brake says this means that average total stopping distance, including thinking time and braking distance, equates to an extra 2.75 car lengths (11 metres) at 30mph, an extra 3.75 car lengths (15 metres) at 40mph – and an additional 6.25 car lengths (25 metres) at 70mph.

As a result, Brake is calling on the Government to increase stopping distances in the next update to the Highway Code.

Jason Wakeford, spokesman for Brake, said: "These figures suggest stopping distances taught to new drivers in the Highway Code fall woefully short. Even though car braking technology has improved in recent years, the majority of the overall stopping distance at most speeds is actually made up of the time taken to perceive the hazard and react.

“The research shows that average thinking time is more than double that set out in the Highway Code. A true understanding of how long it takes to stop a car in an emergency is one of the most important lessons for new drivers.

“Understanding true average thinking time reminds all drivers how far their car will travel before they begin to brake as well as highlighting how any distraction in the car which extends this time, like using a mobile phone, could prove fatal.

“Brake is calling on the Government to increase the stopping distances in the Highway Code as a matter of urgency.”

The RAC is supporting Brake’s call for an update to the Highway Code.

Rod Dennis, RAC spokesman, said: “These findings from Brake and TRL are striking and should be taken seriously. From time to time, new evidence will come to light that means it is necessary to update the Highway Code and perhaps this is one such instance.

“While the ability for cars to be able to brake more quickly has improved, our reaction times clearly haven’t. And arguably, our reaction times might even have got worse due to all the distractions that have made their way into the car environment – none more so than the smartphone that constantly demands our attention.”

 

 

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    Why not go for a compromise and make the thinking distance 1 second and that will obviously increase the stopping distance but not by too much and it would be safer than the 2/3rd of a second we are now using. It makes the thinking distance at 30 mph some 45ft and equal to the one second speed and the same in all cases and that makes it easier to remember and understand and accept the new time and distance. So instead of the full stopping distance at 30 being 75t it now becomes 90 ft which is the same distance travelled in 2 seconds.


    Bob Craven Lancs
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    That has been well understood for many years. It gives rise to the various distances shown in the HC.


    Bob Craven Lancs
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    Told by a school boy in the team for the then Met Police Rosebowl Highway Code competition that one could calculate the stopping distances through the equation:- x plus (x squared over 20) where x is the speed in MPH and the result is in feet. The Highway Code does state the distance will depend on the drivers attention and is only a guide.


    Peter city of Westminster
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    We are the only civilised country that employes a 2 second rule or above a two second rule at higher speeds, whatever that may be. Many other countries have adopted a three second rule understanding that the first one and a half seconds is spent on those issues of seeing, percieving, realising and then acting. I for one have no problem with that as there are nowadays many more distractions, which there should not be but making the safe stopping distance is a good thing all round. Its about time it was updated.

    There are those that would want the whole of the HC S 126 to be re written with new tests on a vehicles braking distances to be modernised and I welcome that.

    I look forward to new informantion of stopping distance as opposed to the older one which many feel is held in disbelief. I feel that even with the new thinking distances the new full stopping distances would not be far off the old ones as some people think that they are.

    I await with anticipation to be corrected or not.


    Bob Craven Lancs
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    I’ve never really seen the benefit of the Highway Code listing stopping distances for people to presumably learn, as there are so many variables that could decrease or increase it anyway. I don’t believe individuals necessarily drive round with these figures in mind, nor are they able to accurately judge such distances in front of them, even if they did know them off by heart.

    I recall with a shudder, a conversation with a driver who persistently tailgated (and persistently drove too fast) and who would not accept that the vehicle in front could, or would, ever come to an abrupt stop, but would somehow gracefully always come to a gradual stop, thereby enabling him to do the same! That is what determined his ‘stopping distance’ or, as I like to call it, ‘time remaining before impact’. (He was a civil engineer by the way!)


    Hugh Jones,Cheshire
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    It does depend rather a lot on whether one agrees with the researcher’s interpretation that “Based on the literature a reasonable estimate for thinking time is 1.5 seconds”. Everything else flows from that baseline interpretation. I’m sure I’m much quicker than that sometimes and slower at other times. So much for averages.


    Pat, Wales
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    Keith – the link we provide to the Brake website in turn gives a link to TRL’s calculations, but for ease here it is:
    http://www.brake.org.uk/assets/docs/pdf/The-mechanics-of-emergency-braking-2017.pdf


    Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News
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    So, in the distance a 20mph driver can stop, a 30mph driver is still thinking, travelling at 30mph and just about to apply the brakes!


    Rod King, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    There seems to be no link to the report or findings of the TRL in the article. Is there a link to the report available?


    Keith
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