When Is It Safe To Brake?
Speed and Stopping Distances
There are three things that add up to total stopping distance: Perception Distance + Reaction Distance + Braking Distance = Total Stopping Distance.
Perception distance. This is the distance your vehicle moves from the time your eyes see a hazard until your brain knows it. The perception time for an alert driver is about 3/4 of a second. At 55 mph you travel 60 feet in 3/4 of a second.
Reaction distance. The distance traveled from the time your brain tells your foot to move from the accelerator until your foot is actually pushing the brake pedal. The average driver has a reaction time of 3/4 of a second. This accounts for an additional 60 feet traveled at 55 mph.
Braking distance. The distance it takes to stop once the brakes are put on. At 55 mph on dry pavement with good brakes, it can take a heavy vehicle about 170 feet to stop. (About 4 and 3/4 seconds.)
Total stopping distance. At 55 mph it will take about 6 seconds to stop and your vehicle will travel about the distance of a football field (60 + 60 + 170 = 290 feet).
By the time your foot hits the brake, your vehicle has traveled about as many feet forward as the number of miles per hour you are traveling.
REACTION TIME: Use your foot to “cover the brake” as you proceed through an intersection. By covering the brake pedal, you significantly reduce the reaction time necessary to respond to a hazard and also allow the vehicle to slow by removing your foot from the accelerator. The “covering the brake” technique can be used effectively in the following situations: (1) When driving next to parked cars, (2) when you see the brake lights of other cars, and (3) when approaching intersections or signal lights.
If you are traveling at 50 miles per hour, it will take 50 feet just for you to react and put your foot on the brake. Of course, the stopping distance varies depending on the surface of the road, the condition of the brakes, and the skill of the driver in recognizing and reacting to hazards.
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