Stopping distances have been underestimated, campaigners warn

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

The charity asked TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) to provide evidence on the time it takes car drivers to perceive, recognise and react to emergency situations. After referring to academic literature, TRL concluded that the average thinking time is 1.5 seconds -- more than double the 0.67 seconds set out in the Highway Code.

As a result, the average total stopping distance -- including thinking and braking distance -- is an extra 2.75 car lengths (11 metres) at 30mph and an extra 3.75 car lengths (15 metres) at 40mph compared with the distances stated in the Highway Code. This difference is even greater at motorway speeds, rising to an additional 6.25 car lengths (25 metres) at 70mph.

Brake has produced a graphic illustrating the differences, which you can see HERE.

Commenting on the findings, the charity's spokesman, Jason Wakeford, 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 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 new drivers. Understanding true average thinking time reminds all drivers how far their car will travel before they begin to brake -- as well as highlighting how any distraction in the car which extends this time, like using a mobile phone, could prove fatal."

Can you remember the stopping distances in the Highway Code?

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