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Nearly half of British drivers clueless about stopping distances

British drivers are unaware just how much distance to leave between themselves and the motorist in front, according to a survey of 2,003 UK adults by automotive parts giant Kwik Fit.

Nearly 45 per cent of respondents significantly underestimated stopping distance at motorway speeds. At 70mph, drivers misjudged the gap by an average 18.9 metres ─ a whopping five car lengths. Only 10 per cent of drivers correctly answered 91 to 100 metres, which encompasses the Highway Code’s recommended gap of 96 metres.

15 per cent said they thought the distance was less than 50 metres, 13 per cent said more than 100 metres and 31 per cent admitted they had absolutely no idea whatsoever.

Drivers were also clueless about how much space you should leave behind the vehicle in front, with 27 per cent thinking the recommended distance is 30 metres or less. The average among respondents worked out at 52.6 metres – a way off the correct 62.6 metres or two second gap.

Stopping distances were, too, underestimated at slower speeds. There was a 10.7-metre difference between the presumed and stipulated gap at 60mph and 4.1-metre difference on average at 50mph. One in three drivers were unable to even guess how far back they should be at a variety of speeds.

The research found it was those aged 18-24 who were the furthest from the correct stopping distance. Some 32 metres short, in fact, compared with the over 55 category and its 83-metre average, which in itself is 16 metres too short.

“Many accidents appear to be unavoidable, but giving other cars the right amount of distance does a great deal to minimise the risks,” Kwik Fit communications director Roger Griggs said.

“It’s vital that drivers know their stopping distances.  We all learnt them for our driving test, but these are figures which should stay with every driver throughout their motoring years, as they may one day save them from an accident,” he added.

The actual stopping distance at 70mph, according to the Government, is 75 metres plus 21 metres for the ‘thinking distance’, which is the time it takes for your brain to react.

The 70mph speed limit was introduced way back in 1975, a time when the 75-metre stopping distance was in force. Since then cars have learned to brake much more quickly and safely, but there’s certainly no harm in leaving too big a gap providing you’re keeping up with traffic.

Recent figures from the Department for Transport reveal there was an increase in the number of motorway fatalities, from 88 to 100. The number of motorway motorcycly fatalities also went up from four to 14.


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