Of all the mechanisms any vehicle is equipped with, the ones for braking and stopping are the most important. Any defects on them can cause operators to accidentally strike pedestrians, drop loads or hit other equipment. These and other serious accidents can cause anything from a lost leg to sudden death.
But keeping brakes in good condition are not enough to safeguard you against hazards on the road. Whether you’re driving a forklift, a golf cart or another kind of vehicle, you must pay attention to other controls and parts of your vehicle to ensure safety in braking. You must also be equipped with proper know-how in adjusting to different environmental conditions, particularly unexpected ones.
Stopping Distance Factors
Time, on one hand, is always an essential factor in driving. Timing, on the other hand, determines whether or not you meet an accident when unexpected factors happen while you’re driving. By “unexpected factors” I mean pedestrians crossing without warning in front of your vehicle; or a vehicle ahead of you suddenly coming to a halt.
Photo by Ben Turner
While a two-second following distance is a rule of thumb for MOST driving situations, your actual stopping distance depends on the following:
- Driver perception time
Length of time it takes a driver to see or recognize a dangerous situation
- Driver reaction time
Length of time from perception of danger to start braking (average time is 0.75 seconds)
- Type and condition of the brakes
(drum brakes, disc brakes, anti-locking braking system, etc.)
- Type and condition of road surface
(Soil, asphalt, concrete; wet, oily, sloping)
- Type and condition of tires
- Vehicle design and condition of shock absorbers
- Speed of the vehicle
The greater the speed of any vehicle, the longer the stopping distance required.
- Vehicle weight when loaded or towing
Remember that the heavier the vehicle, the more braking power required to stop it.
Following Distance and Stopping Distance
Here are situations where you’re required to have/keep a longer following distance:
- You’re driving on a slippery road.
In this case, you must double your following distance to at least four seconds. This way, you have an allowance of a few feet to adjust your speed or stop. When stopping on slippery roads, pump the brakes until you are able to come to a full stop.
If your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes, never engage the brakes too forcefully or they may lock up. If your brakes lock up, your stopping distance would increase and you may end up losing control of your vehicle.
- The driver behind you wishes to pass.
The best way to deal with this situation is to reduce your speed so the driver behind you can pass quicker.
- Your vehicle is towing or carrying a load.
As mentioned before, the heavier the load of a vehicle, the greater the braking power to stop it. This simply means that you’ll have longer stopping distance when towing or carrying loads.
If the load you are towing is equipped with an independent brake system, make sure the trailer brakes are in good condition and are well adjusted. Ensure, too, that your vehicle has proper connecting hardware to operate the trailer brakes.
- Your vehicle is following a large vehicle.
Since your vision of the road ahead is blocked by the large vehicle in front of you, you need to have extra following distance. This allows you to see around the vehicle and view any dangers ahead on the road. If the vehicle ahead of you is a fire truck or any emergency vehicle, you must keep a following distance of at least 500 feet.