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Stopping distance – tyres play a starring role

Kwik Fit | Thursday 27th July 2017 2:50pm

Brake light

Whatever the situation or type of road you’re driving on, when you need to stop, you need to be able to do so quickly and safely. Do you realise how important your tyres are in situations like this? Not everyone does, and so the Kwik Fit tyre team thought it best to give the topic the focus it merits.

Here’s an interesting definition from the Highway Code that we think is worth passing on. What we all remember as “stopping distance” actually consists of two phases. First, there’s “thinking distance” – the time it takes for the driver to react. And then comes “braking distance” – how far the car travels after the brakes have been applied, until it stops. Braking distances can double when it’s wet. Yes, that’s right, double. Read on to learn more.

Tyre condition affects stopping distances

Worn or incorrectly inflated tyres pose a serious risk, not only to drivers and their passengers, but to other road users and pedestrians too. Both issues affect the way your tyre is able to grip the road, and the tyre tread expel water in wet driving conditions.

stopping distance based on tread depth

Worn tyres? They’re dangerous, full stop.

Pioneered by engineers at Continental Tyres in 1904, tyre treads – the grooves on the tyre – expel road-surface water, so that the tyre‘s rubber can grip the road. New tyres are very effective at this, worn tyres are not.

Imagine two cars, both travelling at 50 mph. Car A has brand new tyres with 8mm tread all round, while Car B’s tread is just about legal, at 1.6mm. If both drivers brake at the same time, Car A will stop nearly 14 metres shorter than Car B – that‘s three car lengths! Now imagine what could be in Car B’s path… Learn more about why tyre tread depth is so important

worn tyre with cords showing

Tyre pressures matter, whatever the weather

Under-inflated tyres make your car more difficult to control because the tyres can’t get a proper grip on the road surface. When they have too much air in them, the part of the tyre that makes contact with the road is reduced, which results in less grip. Less grip means it takes longer to stop, whatever the weather. If you want to learn more about this, read our article about tyre pressures.

tyre inflation infographic

As well as being unsafe, incorrectly inflated tyres wear out unevenly and need replacing more often. Under-inflated tyres wear at the tyre edges, which affects driver handling. Over-inflated tyres wear more at the tyre centre, resulting in a loss of tyre tread just where it makes most contact with the road, and where you need the most grip.

Shorter stopping distances mean being safer everywhere

The hazards may change but, wherever you drive, you always need be prepared to stop.

 In town, we need to be alert to pedestrians, particularly children who can step out without warning. It happens. In the countryside, it could be an oncoming car on a narrow lane, while on the motorway a sudden build-up of traffic might mean you’re suddenly braking to avoid slamming into the cars ahead. In all of these situations, and many more, your ability to stop quickly can prevent accidents and save lives, including your own.

Are premium tyres safer, reducing stopping distances?

Why pay extra for premium tyres? It’s a question we’re often asked at Kwik Fit, and we understand why. Alongside evidence that premium tyres are in fact less expensive over time than budget tyres is another, much more important answer. If you value your safety and that of the people around you, it’s clear, premium tyres are the correct choice.

Your ability to react quickly, your brakes and tyres you purchase are the three crucial factors in being able to stop quickly and safely. And the simple truth is that, due to their lower quality rubber composition, budget tyres just aren’t as effective at gripping the road, resulting in a significantly longer stopping time and distance, especially in wet conditions.

Next steps to ensuring safer stopping distances

If you’re concerned about the quality of your tyres and want expert advice on the best ones to buy for your car, get in touch with your nearest Kwik Fit team for impartial advice. Our tyre team can also answer any questions you have about stopping distances, how to spot the signs of tyre wear, and advise you on tyre pressures. Locate your nearest Kwik Fit centre here.

Tags : Tyres

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