Highway Code ‘woefully short’ on stopping distances

Highway Code ‘woefully short’ on stopping distances
The Highway Code should be updated as a “matter of urgency” to better reflect the time required for a vehicle to safely come to a stop.

Current stopping distances given in the road user rulebook dramatically underestimate the thinking time required by drivers to spot a hazard and then apply the brakes, according to road safety charity Brake.

The RAC describes the new findings as “striking” and says they should be taken seriously, particularly with an ever-increasing number of distractions out on today’s roads.

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Brake thinks the 0.67 seconds listed in the Department for Transport’s (DfT) book for identifying and reacting to a potential issue is “woefully short”.

Instead it claims it takes an average of 1.5 seconds to adjust accordingly.

For a car travelling at 40mph, the stopping distance given in the Highway Code is 36 metres, whereas the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) research for Brake shows that 51 metres – or an extra 3.75 car lengths – is closer to the reality.

Similar discrepancies in figures was discovered at all speeds, right up to vehicles travelling at 70mph which are said by the new study to need 121 metres, compared to the 96m given in the Highway Code.

Recently, separate research from the RAC looking at in-car distractions such as mobile phones, found an alarming 40% of drivers say even causing an accident would be unlikely to stop them using their phone at the wheel.

Brake’s Jason Wakeford said stopping distances are among the most important things new drivers should be taught.

He added: “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.”

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RAC spokesman Rod Dennis accepts that the ability for cars to brake more quickly has improved, but adds that drivers’ reaction times clearly haven’t.

“Arguably, our reaction times might even have got worse due to all the distractions that have made their way into the car environment – none more so than the smartphone that constantly demands our attention,” he said.

“Many drivers believe they are capable of doing far more at the wheel than they actually are, but the fact remains that driving is one of the most mentally demanding tasks any of us do and we shouldn’t forget that.”

With both Brake and the RAC recommending that the findings should be acted on, the DfT said it would “carefully consider” them, adding: “We have some of the safest roads in the world and we are always looking at ways to make them safer.”

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.