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Traffic Talk: A quick stop isn't always possible in a fast-moving vehicle

Don Gammill: Braking distance depends on a variety of factors.
By Don Gammill Published: October 15, 2012

My friend Bubba looks for certain things when he's shopping for a new vehicle. It has to “look good, drive good and sound good,” he says.

One other thing. It has to have good brakes. He learned the hard way how important it is to have stopping power.

When he was a teenager, Bubba and some of his buddies were out, shall we say, proving their driving skills on a country road when a big buck deer ran out in front of them.

The driver's natural reaction was to hit the brakes ... hard. The buck's natural reaction was to stand there. You've heard of “deer in the headlights?” Anyway, the deer didn't move. The brakes on the pickup didn't hold. The driver panicked. The pickup went down an embankment, into a ditch.

The deer still didn't move ... until the loud crash of the pickup striking a boulder and the horn going off. Luckily, no one was hurt.

“But I said right then and there that I would always check the brakes before going anywhere,” Bubba said.

Far as I know, he's done so ever since.

I've been trying to teach my son that the car doesn't stop immediately when you press the brakes. He thinks that unless you are really driving fast, you'll stop in seconds. Do you have any information to prove my point?


It may stop in seconds, Dave. Especially if it hits something. There are many factors involved, such as weather and road conditions, speed, weight of the vehicle, condition of your tires, reaction time of the driver and, of course, condition of the brakes.

You can find a wealth of information online relating to braking distance and what affects it. There also are numerous charts and other displays available. Here, from the Oklahoma Driver's Manual, are some estimated numbers relating to braking, “from eye to brain to foot to wheel to road.” In other words, from when you see the need to brake, to reaction, to movement, to stop.

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