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Stopping Distances in Winter

car stopping in winter on the snow
It’s common knowledge that winter weather affects the stopping distance of cars, but just how much can it affect it?  One of the biggest causes of road traffic accidents is tailgating, as driving too close to the rear of the car in front doesn’t give you ample stopping time. When driving, it’s important to consider all the potential dangers and hazards you could encounter. In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about stopping distances and what you can do to shorten your car’s stopping distance.

What is a stopping distance?

car stop sign
Stopping distance is the thinking distance and braking distance combined together. Your thinking distance shouldn’t be affected by the weather unless it’s so bad you struggle to see hazards, but the braking distance entirely depends on the surrounding environment. Obviously, the faster your car is going the longer the stopping distance will be. 

The table below shows how a stopping distance is formulated for normal conditions:

Thinking distance   Braking distance   Stopping distance  
20 mph – 6 metres   20mph – 6 metres   12 metres  
30 mph – 9 metres   30mph – 14 metres   23 metres  
40 mph – 12 metres   40mph – 24 metres   36 metres  
50 mph – 15 metres   50mph – 38 metres   53 metres  
60 mph – 18 metres   60mph – 55 metres   73 metres  
70 mph – 21 metres   70mph – 75 metres   95 metres  

From the table, you can see that by travelling at a speed above 30mph, your stopping distance greatly increases – by 13 metres – which is why many urban roads have a 30mph speed limit. The next time you’re thinking about breaking the 30mph speed limit, remember the effect it can have on your stopping distance!

What can affect a stopping distance?

Rain

In heavy rain, you may feel less confident when driving your vehicle. A common issue when driving in the rain is aquaplaning. Aquaplaning is when a layer of water builds up between the vehicles tyres and the surface of the road beneath. The lack of traction between the tyres and road leaves the driver unable to control the vehicle, which therefore makes it difficult to brake, accelerate or steer effectively. Aquaplaning obviously hugely affects your stopping distance, but it’s important to stay calm and not make any sudden actions – slowly press your brakes and keep a tight hold of your steering wheel.

Ice and snow

car print on the snow
When the weather turns colder, ice and snow become a danger to all drivers. Ice and snow can become compacted within the tyre tread, leading to a loss of grip. Stopping distance increases by more than double and braking can increase the risk of a crash. It’s recommended you turn your vehicle in the direction it’s sliding and let your vehicle come to a natural stop.

What is the difference between winter tyres and summer or all-season tyres?

When choosing your next tyres, it’s important that you know the difference between winter, summer and all-season tyres. Making an informed choice will ensure you have the utmost safety when driving in all seasons.

All-season tyres

All-season tyres are a compromise between summer and winter tyres, so depending on where you live and the climates you face throughout the year, this may be a perfect choice. If you live in an area which has relatively stable weather throughout the year, we highly recommend all-season tyres. All-season tyres have a range of benefits, including:

  • Traction and grip in wet and dry conditions
  • Stability when handling in different weather conditions
  • Tread life lasts longer 
  • Usually quieter

Summer tyres

Summer tyres, also known as performance tyres, are optimised for road grip and surprisingly work the best in the rain. The tread and rubber used to create the tyre are designed in a way that more rubber connects with the road, offering a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Keeps rolling resistance to a minimum on hot tarmac
  • More stability during braking, steering, and acceleration
  • Outperforms all other tyres when it comes to wet and dry traction

However, summer tyres don’t offer any traction when the weather is icy or snowy. They get extremely stiff in cold temperatures and are actually relatively dangerous to drive with when faced with these conditions.

Winter tyres

Noticeably different to other tyres, these tyres have very aggressive looking tread patterns to enable optimum traction during harsh weather. Winter tyres offer a range of advantages, including:

  • Improved stopping distance in icy weather
  • Specifically made for winter conditions
  • More confidence when driving

Watch this video to see the difference between summer and winter tyres, and get in touch with a member of our team if you’d like winter tyres fitted or advice on changing tyres.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive tyre changing service, then look no further. Here at Tyres Northampton, we pride ourselves on fitting high-quality tyres with first-rate customer service. For more information on our products and services, please get in touch with a member of our team.

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