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What is stopping/following distance?

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Discover the essential driving fundamental that all new drivers must grasp - stopping distance, also referred to as following distance. Dive deep into this topic with the comprehensive guidance provided in the NJ Drivers Manual. In this post, we will explore what stopping distance is and the various factors that impact a driver's ability to stop effectively.

Defining Stopping/Following Distance:

Stopping distance refers to the distance you should maintain between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. According to the NJ Drivers Manual, a general rule of thumb is to leave an additional 20 feet (equivalent to one vehicle length) for every 10 MPH of speed.

Factors Influencing Stopping/Following Distance:

Vehicle maintenance: The condition of your car's auto parts significantly affects your stopping ability. Familiarize yourself with basic vehicle maintenance and consult your owner's manual for a maintenance schedule. The effectiveness of your brakes, rotors, and wheels plays a critical role, so regular maintenance is essential.

Road and weather conditions: Stopping distance can be influenced by the state of the road and weather conditions. It is crucial to increase your following distance on slippery roads due to rain or ice. These conditions reduce tire-road friction, necessitating a longer stopping distance. Additionally, braking too rapidly on wet surfaces can cause hydroplaning, resulting in loss of control. This poses a significant danger, particularly on highways, where steering into another lane is a real risk.

Driver mentality and cognitive ability: New drivers often lack confidence and struggle to accurately estimate distances. This skill takes time to develop, making it more challenging for beginners to comprehend safe following distances at different speeds. Practice driving regularly, preferably under supervision, and limit highway driving until you are more comfortable with your abilities.

Understanding and implementing proper following distance is crucial for all drivers. It is therefore recommended that driving instructors thoroughly cover this topic. If you still find this concept confusing, consider booking a driving lesson or referring back to the NJ Drivers Manual for further clarification.

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