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Wet Weather Stopping Distances

Kwik Fit | Thursday 6th September 2018 3:00pm

Car driving on wet road

Knowing your stopping distances is critical for vehicle safety. Many factors influence stopping distance including the weather, temperature and the tyres themselves. These all play a part in influencing the time and distance it takes to a safe stop.

What is 'stopping distance?'

Many drivers often believe stopping distance is the distance a vehicle travels after the brake has been applied. However, this is actually only the braking distance. Although this is a large part of stopping distance, thinking distance also makes up stopping distances. Thinking distance refers to the time it takes you to decide that you need to brake.

Your thinking distance is influenced by both factors within your vehicle and external factors. If you are alert, you will have quicker reaction times than someone who is tired or distracted. Similarly, if you are driving in rainy conditions where visibility may be poor, your thinking distance will be negatively affected. Another important factor in determining your stopping distance is your speed as demonstrated by the graph below.

The condition of your tyres also significantly influences your ability to brake quickly. Factors including tyre damage and lack of tread depth will reduce your vehicle’s ability to brake efficiently.

The difference between summer and winter tyres?

In the UK, most drivers use summer tyres such as Continental’s PremiumContact™ 6. However, in Europe, most drivers switch to winter tyres towards the end of each year. People often mistakenly believe that winter tyres are only appropriate for snowy conditions. As a result of the fact that we don’t often experience snow in the UK, many drivers decide not to make the change to winter tyres. However, snow is not the only reason to use winter tyres. The main factor is temperature.

It's all a matter of degrees

As soon as temperature gets down to 7°C and below. At these temperatures, stopping distances are significantly shorter for vehicles fitted with winter tyres than for those with summer tyres. Winter tyres are made from different compounds to summer tyres as they are designed to perform better at lower temperatures. The compounds used for summer tyres become too hard at 7°C and below. As a result of this, they have less grip than winter tyres. Likewise, winter tyres are made of softer compounds and aren’t designed to cope with temperatures above 7°C.

The best of both worlds?

All season tyres aim to offer an alternative to summer and winter tyres by combining their characteristics to make a tyre suitable for all weather conditions. However, as they are not specifically designed for a particular weather type, they will not perform as well as winter and summer tyres in their respective seasons. Nonetheless, all season tyres can provide good performance all year round, especially in countries such as the UK with a moderate climate.



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