Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Understanding Braking and Stopping Distance

Stopping Distance

To a driver, braking appears to happen in a very short amount of time. In reality, a car can travel an alarming distance before coming to a complete stop when traveling at highway speeds. Even with such advanced technology going into every car on the road, braking still takes quite a distance. But what makes this happen?

Understanding braking distance

When it comes to braking distance, there are two big factors to take into account:

Reaction time: The split second between when you realize that you need to stop and when the brakes are applied can span quite a distance. At just thirty miles per hour a car can travel over fifty feet before the brakes are applied, and at sixty-five miles per hour over 100 feet of road will pass under the vehicle while the driver moves their foot from its resting position onto the brake pedal.

Vehicle performance: A vehicle with good, grippy tires and new brake pads will stop much faster than one with less traction and worn brake pads. Anti-lock brakes can greatly improve brake performance as well by decreasing the likelihood of the tires locking up and applying the maximum amount of braking that the car can handle at the given time.

When all things are taken into account, a stopping vehicle can travel over four hundred feet when coming to a stop from 70 miles per hour. Think about that: a car can travel the length of a football field and still have a hundred feet to go before stopping from a very normal highway speed. Over a hundred of those feet, on average, pass by when before you notice that you have to stop and get your foot to the brake pedal.

The amount of distance it takes to brake increases significantly as vehicle speed increases. This is the reason there are such low speed limits in school zones and residential areas. The difference between twenty-five miles per hour and forty miles per hour may not seem significant while driving, but when the brakes are applied a vehicle going forty miles per hour will travel over twice as far (over 160 feet) as a vehicle traveling at twenty-five miles per hour (80 feet). In areas with big deer populations, lots of pedestrians, or cyclists on the road, it is better to play it safe and know that your vehicle will be able to stop for anything unexpected.

Practicing good braking technique and remaining aware of your surroundings behind the steering wheel will reduce the amount of time it takes to react to something in front of the vehicle. This aspect of braking safety is often overlooked, but putting priority on looking straight ahead rather than changing the radio station could prevent a collision. Doing routine maintenance and replacing the brake pads when the manufacturer recommends (usually every 50,000 miles) will make the car brake faster once the brake pedal is actually pressed.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...
P2422 OBD-II Trouble Code: Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2422 P2422 code definition Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed Related Trouble Codes: P2441: EVAP Vent Valve Stuck Open EVAP trouble...
What are the Car Pool Rules in Hawaii?
Hawaii is widely regarded as a land of vacation and relaxation, and as such, its scenic roads and routes are far better known than the state’s freeways. But, as with all...

Related questions

Q: How do I unbuckle the lap and shoulder seat belt?

Your lap and shoulder seat belt is very easy to unbuckle. Simply locate the belt latch, and press hard on the button until the lap and shoulder buckle pops out. Guide the lap and shoulder belt back to the belt...

Q: Car will not start, ABS, trans failsafe lights present - 2000 BMW 750iL

It sounds like some electrical components were damaged by this jump start. Disconnect the battery for 15-20 minutes, reconnect a known good battery, restart the vehicle and see if the ABS light is still on, or the transmission is still...

Q: New brakes going to the floor

Hi. It sounds like a hydraulic issue. If there are no external leaks in the hydraulic system and it is full of fluid, yes, the master cylinder sounds to be faulty. The pedal goes to the floor because the master...