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How to remember stopping distances in your Theory Test

Are you preparing for your UK Driving Theory Test but keep getting caught out by the questions on stopping distances, braking distances and thinking distances? 

If so, check out the information below which should help you to explain the differences and help you remember the correct stopping distances so you’re not left confused and panicking on the day of your Theory Test!

So what are the differences between the Thinking Distance, Braking Distance and Stopping Distance?

Thinking Distance

The Thinking Distance is the time it takes for you to activate your brakes, and the distance you have travelled before they start to affect the speed of the car.

TIP: Thinking Distance is appropriately 1 foot for every mph you are travelling at. So for example, if you are travelling at 30mph then your thinking distance is approximately 30 feet.

Braking Distance

Braking Distance is the distance your car travels after you have applied the brakes until your vehicle comes to a stop. The faster you are travelling, the more momentum you have and the braking distance will therefore increase accordingly.

Stopping Distance

Stopping Distance is the total distance you travel before you hit the brakes plus the distance you travel while the brakes slow you down. Thinking + Braking Distance = Overall Stopping Distance.  

How to remember Stopping Distances

TIP: Here is a great way to remember the overall stopping distances. Starting from 20mph you simply multiply the speed by intervals of 0.5, beginning with 2, for example, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5 etc as follows:

20mph x 2 = 40 feet ((12 meters) or 3 car lengths)
30 mph x 2.5 = 75 feet ((23 meters) or 6 car lengths)
40 mph x 3 = 120 feet ((36.5 meters) or 9 car lengths)
50 mph x 3.5 = 175 feet ((53 meters) or 13 car lengths)
60 mph x 4 = 240 feet ((73 meters) or 18 car lengths)
70 mph x 4.5 = 315 feet ((96 meters) or 24 car lengths)

The above calculations are a simple way to help you remember the correct stopping distances, but please be aware that these are approximate.  The overall stopping distance is really the only safe separation gap, anything less than this can be considered a risk.

The Highway Code

The distances shown below are a general guide.  The distance will depend on your attention (thinking distance), the road surface, the weather conditions and the condition of your vehicle at the time.

What affects overall stopping distances?

You must always remember that the overall stopping distance of your vehicle depend greatly on a considerable number of factors including:

  • How fast you are travelling
  • Whether you are on a level road, or a hill going up or down, and the steepness of that hill.
  • Weather, is it good and dry, or is it wet or icy
  • Tyres, are they good tyres and properly inflated, or worn or badly inflated
  • Brakes, are they working well, are they stopping you in a straight line.
  • Your ability as a driver, are you ill, tired, on medication, have drunk alcohol, are distracted, all of these can affect your reactions when applying brakes.

Separation Distances

Separation distances are safety margins or empty road between you and the vehicle in front. Separation distances are essential to allow you time to see and react appropriately to any potential or developing hazard.

Tips to ensure you don’t get caught out in the Theory Test

Make sure you read every question thoroughly. One very common occurrence is that test candidates do not read the question properly and as a result mark the incorrect answer when being asked about stopping or braking distances.

Always make sure that you read every driving Theory Test question at least twice on the day of your test, but most importantly TAKE YOUR TIME! You’ll not score additional points for finishing your test early, so make good use of the allocated time you have to read every question and possible answer thoroughly.

And finally..

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  1. Thank you for giving me information about stopping distances. I found this helpful and informative.

    Many Thanks

    Holly McCulloch

  2. Yes but remember the last time the highway code was written these people where driving old cars A car now can stop a lot quicker, so why hasn’t this been taken into affect.