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Stopping distances – do you know them? Refresh your Road Safety knowledge

Stopping distances – do you know them? Refresh your Road Safety knowledge

Posted by Scott Georgiades on November 17, 2014.

Speed limits and stopping distances should be at the forefront of every drivers mind.

This week is Road Safety Week, an initiative promoted by national charity BRAKE whose primary goal is to raise road safety awareness, safe and sustainable road use, effective road safety policies and provide support to families and individuals devastated by road death and serious injury.

Here at Plan Insurance we respect the commitment given by this organisation. To support their campaign we will be sharing a series of blogs on the topic of road safety.

As specialist insurance brokers for professional road based businesses the topic of road safety will always be at the forefront of our client’s minds.

However on a subject of such vital importance we think our motor trade, London black cab, HGV and chauffeur insurance clients will agree that dedicating a little time for a quick refresher course will prove to be a worthwhile endeavour.

In this blog we will cover best practice and up to date research on the following topics;  Speed, the limits and stopping distances.



is a critical factor in all road crashes and casualties. Driving is unpredictable and if something unexpected happens on the road ahead – such as a child stepping out from between parked cars – it is a driver’s speed that will determine whether they can stop in time, and if they can’t stop, how hard they will hit.

Research has found that British drivers who speed are nearly twice as likely to have been involved in a road crash.  Similarly, Dutch research found drivers with one speeding violation annually are twice as likely to crash as those with none, and this increases further for drivers who commit repeated speed violations.

It has been estimated that for every 1mph reduction in average speeds, crash rates fall by an average of 5%. Breaking the speed limit or travelling too fast for conditions is recorded by police at crash scene as a contributory factor in more than 28% fatal crashes in the UK.  Reducing and managing traffic speeds is crucial to road safety.


Speed limits

on local roads in the UK are set by local authorities and speed limits on all other UK roads follow national standards.

Speed limits are limits, not targets – they are set as the top speed for any particular road, and it is frequently safer to travel at much lower speeds, such as in bad weather, poor visibility, and where there are or could potentially be pedestrians or cyclists.

Unfortunately, many drivers do not always obey speed limits. A Brake survey found that nearly 57% drivers admit speeding in the past year and 19% said they’d done so deliberately, because they thought it was safe as there wasn’t much traffic around.

32% said they’d broken the speed limit to get past a vehicle they were overtaking – a potentially deadly manoeuvre, which can easily lead to a head-on collision.


National speed limits by vehicle type and road type
Built-up area Single carriageway Dual carriageway Motorway
Cars and motorcycles (including car-derived vans up to 2 tonnes max laden weight) 30 mph (48 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h) 70 mph (113 km/h) 70 mph (113 km/h)
Vehicles towing caravans or trailers
inc cars, motorcycles, goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes MLW
30 mph (48 km/h) 50 mph (80 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h)
Buses, coaches, minibuses up to 12 metres (39 ft)
Goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes MLW
30 mph (48 km/h) 50 mph (80 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h) 70 mph (113 km/h)
Goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes MLW 30 mph (48 km/h) 40 mph (64 km/h) 50 mph (80 km/h) 60 mph (97 km/h)

Data in the above table sourced from wikipedia

Stopping distances

include, THINKING DISTANCE – the distance traveled while the driver notices a hazard and applies the brakes and BRAKING DISTANCE – while the vehicle comes to a full stop from its initial speed.


Stopping Distances

Source: Department of Transport, 2007


Click on the above graphic to see typical stopping distances of vehicles at various speeds. These distances assume the driver is alert, concentrating and not impaired, producing a reaction time of 0.67 seconds.

These THINKING DISTANCES should be regarded as a minimum, as a driver’s reaction time dramatically increases when distracted or tired.

The BRAKING DISTANCE depends on how fast the vehicle was travelling before the brakes were applied and even small increases in speed mean significantly longer braking distances.

Again these figures should be regarded as a minimum as braking distances are extended for heavier or larger vehicles and in wet or icy conditions.


Technology such as anti-lock brakes and stability control are designed to enable greater control over the vehicle and not to shorten stopping distances. There may be a very small reduction in braking distance with modern technology, but not enough to significantly affect your overall stopping distance.

Even with the advances in vehicle technology the fact still remains –The faster you drive, the longer your stopping distance and the less chance you have of stopping in time in the event of an emergency.

Meet the Author Scott Georgiades

Co-Founder & Corporate Development Director at Plan – Passionate business owner, petrol head & cyclist. Drives a T6 and Caterham 7 with the company Dog ‘Teela’ a Rhodesian Ridgeback often by his side.

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