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What is stopping/following distance?

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Stopping distance or if you want to call it following distance, is an important driving fundamental that all new drivers must understand. The NJ Drivers Manual goes into great detail on this topic. In this post we'll go through what stopping distance is and the different factors that effect a drivers stopping distance.

What is stopping/following distance?

Stopping distance is amount of distance you must keep from the next vehicle in front of you. As stated in the NJ drivers manual the rule of thumb is to keep an extra 20 feet(one vehicle length) for every 20 MPHS.

What factors impact stopping/following distance?

A number of different things impact stopping distance, but they all relate to the vehicle, the road, and driver.

The condition of auto parts on your car will effect your ability to stop. Every driver should understand basic vehicle maintenance and also refer to their vehicle owners manual. There you will find a maintenance schedule for your car. Your vehicles braking effectiveness mostly depends on the brakes, rotors, and wheel condition. Vehicle maintenance for those parts should be done by all drivers quarterly or monthly depending on how far you drive.

Road and weather conditions can impact stopping distance. If roads are slippery due to rain or ice, your following distance should be greater than it normally is. Rain and Ice reduces the amount of friction between your wheels and the road, this means you’ll need more road to stop. Also braking too fast in rain or ice causes your car to hydroplane, which is when your car slides out of control. This can be very dangerous when driving on the highway, as you could end up losing control of your car and steering into the other lane

The third important factor is your mentality and cognitive ability as a driver. New drivers are usually less confident on the road and less effective at estimating distances. This is an ability that takes time to hone. That’s why it is a lot harder for new drivers to understand safe following distances at different speeds. New drivers can work on this by driving often and only driving on the highway while under supervision.

Following distance is a very important driving fundamental and it's a topic that all driving instructors should go over. Do make sure you understand and employ proper following distance while driving. If you’re still confused by this driving topic, book a driving lesson or refer to the NJ driver manual.

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