Stop! Do you know your braking distance?

Van braking distances

How long would it take your van to stop in an emergency? Knowing the answer to this question is a crucial part of staying safe on the roads – and it's probably longer than you think.

What is stopping distance?

Stopping distance is different to braking distance. Braking distance is the distance a vehicle travels after you've applied the brakes before it comes to a complete stop. Vehicle stopping distances, however, addthinking distance – the distance you travel while your brain reacts to a hazard and you press the brake. No matter how alert you are, at high speeds, this isn't insignificant: at 70mph you could cover the length of four cars before you even apply the brakes.

The Highway Code gives these thinking and braking distances for an average-sized family car. They will be longer for a van, because it is bigger and heavier; how much longer depends on the type of van. Load weight is also hugely important: the heavier the load, the longer it will take for the van to come to a complete stop, so always leave extra room when your van is laden.

Speed

Thinking distance

Braking distance

Total

20mph

6m

6m

12m

30mph

9m

14m

23m

40mph

12m

24m

36m

50mph

15m

38m

53m

60mph

18m

55m

73m

70mph

21m

75m

96m

What factors affect vehicle stopping distances?

Weather: Braking distances can double on wet roads – and stopping distances in weather conditions such as snow and ice can increase tenfold. That means it could take a car more than the length of seven football pitches to stop from 70mph. Poor visibility might also mean you take longer to react. Be prepared for black ice on cold days, too.

You: How alert you are (your reaction times will be slower if you are tired or distracted) and whether you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if you're under the drink-drive limit, will affect your reaction times. The RAC says that just a few seconds glancing at your phone can add a football pitch to your stopping distance at motorway speeds. Of course, we wouldn’t condone illegal driving behaviour at all.

Tyres: Damage, under-inflation or insufficient tread will reduce your van’s ability to brake efficiently. The RAC says that cars with budget tyres can take an extra 14m to stop from 70mph in wet conditions compared to those with premium brand tyres, and that tyres right on the legal tread limit of 1.6mm can increase braking distance by up to 60 per cent compared to brand new tyres.

Winter tyres are more effective than summer ones in temperatures of 7°C or less. The materials they’re made of and their specialist tread patterns help reduce stopping distances in cold weather, so we recommend getting a set for winter.

At Vanwise Group, we have a huge range of used vans for sale –and they're all thoroughly inspected by our in-house technicians to ensure the brakes, tyres and everything else are in good working order. You can see all our stock online, or give us a call at our Maidstone andHarlow dealerships to book a test drive.