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Highway Code stopping distances ‘woefully short’, new research suggests

Stopping distances in the Highway Code should be increased “as a matter of urgency” as they underestimate drivers’ thinking time.


Michelin study of stopping distances using different types of tyres.

So says Brake after research by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) suggests that the average thinking time is 1.5 seconds − more than double the 0.67 seconds set out in the Highway Code.

According to the study, average total stopping distance should be set at 34m instead of 23m for 30mph – an extra 2.75 car lengths – rising to 121m at 70mph compared to the current figure of 96m, equating to an additional 6.25 car lengths.

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 RAC has also called for the Highway Code to be updated in the light of the findings.

Spokesman Rod Dennis said: “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.

“Many drivers believe they are capable of doing far more at the wheel than they actually are, but the fact remains that driving is one of the most mentally demanding tasks any of us do and we shouldn’t forget that.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.