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Defensive driving expert breaks down braking distance in a collision

Posted at 4:19 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-06 00:47:35-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — With speeding fatalities on the rise here in Nevada, many drivers may feel defenseless on the roads. 

What can valley drivers do to help them potentially avoid a crash?

13 Action News Traffic Anchor, Zora Asberry, spoke with Defensive Driving Specialist, Jeff Payne to learn how hard it can be to stop on a dime, and how driving more defensively could save a life.

Driving experts say there are several factors that come into play when speeding is involved. Not only do drivers have to think about how quickly they can physically stop their vehicle, but experts also factor in what is called the "thinking distance".

That is the term that defines the time your brain takes to tell your body to stop and hit the brakes. That thinking time may be greatly affected when the driver is impaired.

Jeff Payne is the founder of Drivers' Edge, a charity dedicated to drivers' education and making sure commuters understand the rules of the road.

"We get people behind the wheel, we put them in "panic-braking" situations, so we say, let’s get you to hit the brakes as hard as you can, and you understand now how quickly a car can come to a stop."

The moments before a crash at any speed are terrifying. Your window of opportunity to avoid it is slim but critical.

“If you are in a panic situation and trying to hit on the brakes, it’s going to take about a second to get from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. Depending on your speed, you know, if you're driving at 60 mph you’re traveling roughly 90 feet in that second that you’re going. That extra 90 feet could be the difference between a life saved and a life lost," said Payne.

Now imagine going 156 miles per hour, like police say Henry Ruggs was driving. Factoring in reaction time, it can take 1300 feet of braking distance. That’s more than four football fields, possibly more if the driver is impaired.

"They lock up their arms and hit the brakes and wait for the crash to happen instead of being aware enough to try to avoid that situation so there’s a lot that factors into it. It's really unfortunate, but we need to try to protect ourselves out there on the roads," said Payne.