Motoring News, road safety

Taught braking distances all wrong! UK report

LONDON, England – Stopping distances listed in the British Highway Code should be increased because drivers’ thinking time has been underestimated, according to data obtained by road-safety charity Brake.

Brake asked the British Transport Research Laboratory to provide evidence on the time taken by car drivers to perceive, recognise and react to an emergency situation.

TRL referred to academic literature and concluded that the average thinking time is 1.5 seconds − more than double the 0.67 as listed in the Highway Code (See table 1 below).

That means that average total stopping distance – including thinking and braking distance – is an extra 2.75 car lengths (11m) at 50km/h and an extra 3.75 car lengths (15m) at 65km/h compared with the distances printed in the Highway Code.

This difference rises to an additional 6.25 car lengths (25m) at 70mph.

New overall average stopping distances

Image: Brake / Newspress
Image: Brake / Newspress

See a graphic showing the differences here.

Brake is calling on the UK government to increase stopping distances in its next update to the Highway Code.

Jason Wakeford, spokesman for Brake, told Carman’s Corner in its media release: “These figures suggest stopping distances taught to learner drivers in the Highway Code fall woefully short.

South African stopping distance table
South African stopping distance table

“Even though vehicle braking technology has improved in recent years most 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 learner drivers.

Understanding true average thinking time reminds all drivers how far their vehicle will travel even before they begin to brake and highlights how any distraction which extends this time, such as using a mobile phone, could be fatal.

Brake wants the UK to increase and inform the public of the revised stopping distances “as a matter of urgency.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s