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The Importance of Brakes in Stopping Distance

Safety - 26 April 2019

Traffic “Stop” sign painted on roadThe time and distance it takes to bring your car to a complete stop depend on several important factors, and they are all critical for your safety:

  • Speed
  • Reaction time
  • Road condition
  • Load
  • Brakes

Here, we answer a few questions about the role your brakes play in ensuring you’re able to stop as quickly and in as short a distance as possible.

What is a Normal Stopping Distance?

Stopping distance is the combination of two things: your reaction distance and your braking distance.

  • Your reaction distance refers to the distance you travel between noticing a hazard on the road and starting to press the brakes.
  • Your braking distance is the distance between applying the brakes and stopping.

Knowing how to judge these distances can be the difference between a long miss, a near miss, and an accident.

The following hypothetical situation will help you: If you’re travelling 50km/h, and your reaction time is one second, you will travel about 15m before you start braking. Once you do, you’ll likely travel another 10 to 13m before your brakes bring you to a stop. Your total stopping distance is therefore in the region of 25 to 30m. But remember, this situation assumes that you are not speeding or distracted, that the surface of the road is smooth and dry, and that your brakes and tyres are in excellent condition. If any of these variables change, you’re going to travel a lot further before you stop.

What Factors Affect Your Stopping Distance?

We’ve touched on these briefly, but it’s important that you understand the role each factor plays:

  • Brakes:It stands to reason that without good working brakes that have been properly fitted, you stand no chance of braking in time to avoid a collision. Brake pads that are worn and thin can cause your car to screech, shudder, pull to one side, and can prevent you from stopping. If your brakes are good working order, on the other hand, they can be nothing short of life saving.
  • Tyres: Pressure, tread, cracks and abrasions – these tyre-related factors play a major role in your safety on the road. The more contact your car has with the road through properly inflated and well maintained tyres, the more likely you are to stop in time if there’s a hazard. Read more about the role of tyres and stopping distance.
  • Speed: The mathematics of this is simple: the faster you go, the further you’re going to travel before you stop. Interestingly, speeding affects both your reaction distance and your braking distance. You’re less likely to notice an obstacle in time if you’re going too fast and, because of your speed, are going to need more time and space to come to a halt.
  • Road:It’s a lot more difficult to stop if the road you’re travelling on is wet or icy, or made of gravel. If you brake too suddenly, you also run the risk of skidding or aquaplaning.
  • Distractions: Whether you’re eating breakfast or fidgeting with your phone, distracted driving is one of the largest causes of accidents. With your attention elsewhere, your reaction time and distance expands, and you could lose control if you slam on your brakes too quickly.
  • Your driving style:If you’re an aggressive driver prone to tailgating, you’re not going to have enough distance to stop if the person in front of you brakes.

How Do You Know if Your Brakes are in Good Condition?

One easy way to check whether your brakes are working properly is to look for resistance. If you press your brake pedal while you’re parked on a flat road and your foot almost hits the floor, that’s not a good sign. You should be able to feel quite a bit of resistance. It’s also important that you’re aware of any dangerous signals, such as strange shudders or rasping noises when you brake, or any warning lights on your dashboard.

The best way to check that your brakes are in good working order is to speak to a professional. Drive your car in to your nearest Supa Quick Fitment Centre at least every six months, and especially before you take a long road trip to confirm that it is in tip top shape.

Supa Quick uses only the best quality brake pads and offers a warrantee against any manufacturing defects, so you can rest assured that your car is in excellent hands. We also offer a free vehicle safety check – it’s all part of getting you where you want to be, and helping you to go (and stop) safely along the way.

Disclaimer:This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. The views expressed here are not that of Supa Quick. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information on this site is at your own risk. We will not be liable for any losses and damages in connection with the content on this site.

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