Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. Understanding Braking and Stopping Distance

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

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.


More related articles

How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
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...

Related questions

Q: What precautions should be taken with the supplemental restraint system in a Nissan Altima?

Your Altima’s supplemental restraint system (SRS) is designed to augment your seat belts during an impact, but there are several things you should know about both how the system operates, and how to ensure you’re using it correctly. ...

Q: My brakes like skipped or jumped and I almost hit the curb.

Hello. There can be a hydraulic issue with the master cylinder, ABS pump, or even a brake fluid leak anywhere in the system. This is a safety issue and you should have a certified technician inspect the ABS system as...

Q: Replacing front brake pad and reasonable dealership cost

Hi there. I understand your concern. I start suggesting brake pad replacement at 3mm. Most technicians have a brake pad thickness gauge that takes the guesswork out of determining when to suggest brake pads replacement; 1-3mm is red, 4-6mm is...