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Stopping distance

A distance you remember, or a distance you know?

When motorists come on an Advanced Driving course one of the issues we deal with is that of the stopping distance needed in different circumstances.

Stopping behind other vehicles

Many drivers stop far too close to the vehicle in front when pulling up behind them at junctions and traffic lights. The simple rule is: Can you see a strip of road between the front of your vehicle and the rear of the one in front?

If not, then you are too close. If the vehicle in front is a large van or lorry allow more room - you should be able to see its rear view mirrors. Leaving this amount of space will always allow you to pull out and pass if the vehicle in front should not move off for any reason.

Stopping distances on the move

Those of us who passed our test some years ago will remember learning the Highway Code stopping distances at various speeds for the test - and in all honesty possibly forgetting them thereafter! Even when these distances are memorised many drivers cannot visualise these distances when stationary never mind when moving.

An important fact:

If speed doubles stopping distances increases by FOUR

The current Highway Code mentions the TWO SECOND RULE in the section on stopping distances. It says: allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying fast traffic. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads.

The TWO SECOND RULE is useful as it works at any speed and provides a simple and common-sense way of maintaining road safety. BUT, the �two seconds rule� is the minimum in ideal driving conditions

The Two Seconds Rule

Two seconds of following distance at 60 mph gives you over 176 feet (54 metres) of road in which to react and respond. Even at two seconds of following distance, you must respond quickly, but it can be done under normal circumstances.

How do you apply the two-second rule? Watch as the vehicle ahead passes some fixed object then say "Only a fool breaks the two second rule" (this takes about two seconds to say.) If you pass that same spot before saying this then you're too close - back off!

When you are on a wet road then you need to have at least a four-second gap. And if it's icy or you are driving on compacted snow, then it is wise to create at least a twenty-second gap. Yes, it will look like a huge gap, but who cares? Your life is worth it.

So, slightly adapting the rule:

Only a fool breaks the 2-second, 4-second, 20-second rule! normal road - wet road - icy road.

It is an error to think you cannot leave the appropriate space in heavy traffic. Some don't try because they think other vehicles will change lanes in front of them and fill the space. It happens, but is not as often as you think, and heavy traffic is one time when you really need the space. If someone cuts into your space, simply back off a little and get it back.

Control that flash of irritability - "It doesn't matter" - what does count is your safety.

Something to think about

Most drivers have never done any training other than learning to pass a remarkably basic driving test, and have never taken any higher level examinations on either their own driving skills or on their in-depth knowledge of road safety issues.

The truth is that to become skilful in most subjects requires serious and often long-term training. It is a rare for any individual to reach very high level through being self-taught. Yet few other subjects, when done wrongly, even for just a splitsecond, can be as deadly as driving.

MATLOCK (Derwent and Hope Valleys) Group of Advanced Motorists

IAM Group No. 4191 Tel 01629 812732