Larger commercial trucks and tractor-trailers are potentially hazardous vehicles. Although they keep the American shipping industry running, they are immense machines capable of doing catastrophic damage to the smaller vehicles they share the road with. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that at least 71 percent of individuals killed in crashes involving large trucks are the occupants of other vehicles.
What makes trucks so dangerous? Part of the reason larger trucks pose a safety risk to other vehicles is the fact that these vehicles require a much more significant stopping distance than passenger trucks, cars, and SUVs. What does stopping distance mean, and why do large trucks have longer stopping distances than other vehicles? At Finz & Finz, P.C., our legal team breaks down the science behind stopping distances.
What Is Stopping Distance?
What does it mean when we talk about stopping distance? Stopping distance refers to the time it takes a vehicle to come to a complete stop. There are online stopping distance calculators that can help individuals estimate the time it takes for their vehicle to come to a complete stop under specific conditions based on a mathematical formula.
Typically, drivers in large trucks going 30 miles per hour need at least 100 feet to stop in ideal driving conditions. The faster the vehicle, the longer it takes for that vehicle to come to a complete stop. Drivers going 60 mph need at least 425 feet to bring their vehicle to a complete stop.
Understanding stopping distance is vital for all drivers, especially commercial truck drivers. Changes in road conditions, weather, or traffic patterns can necessitate sudden braking maneuvers. Truck drivers can help prevent catastrophic accidents by learning about proper stopping distances and maintaining a safe distance between themselves and other motorists.
Why Do Trucks Have Longer Stopping Distances?
Trucks have a much longer stopping distance than other vehicles, mainly because of their size and weight. To determine why trucks have longer stopping distances than other vehicles, we must refer back to high school physics. For an object in motion to come to a complete stop, it needs three things: force, time, and distance.
Newton’s first law of motion dictates that an object in motion stays in motion until an outside force is applied to the object. In this case, the force is typically that of a truck driver applying their brakes. However, a truck in motion cannot stop immediately, even when the brakes are applied. Newton’s second law says that the object’s acceleration depends on mass and the amount of force applied. The reverse is also true. In other words, the more mass the object has, the more time and distance it takes for force to bring that object to a complete stop. Trucks have longer stopping distances because they are larger and heavier than other vehicles on the road.
A typical passenger vehicle weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. At 65 mph under ideal conditions, it can take about 316 feet for a car to come to a complete stop. Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. At 65 mph under ideal road conditions, it can take a truck at least 525 feet or the length of two football fields to stop.
Factors that Can Impact Stopping Distance
A large truck takes a lot of time and distance to make a complete stop under ideal conditions. However, numerous factors can impact stopping distance, making it more challenging for truck drivers to stop their vehicles when certain conditions are present. Some of the most common factors that can influence stopping distance include:
- Speed – Speed is one of the most influential factors that impact how long it takes a truck to come to a complete stop. The faster a truck travels, the more distance it takes for the truck to stop. At 30 mph, it takes a truck about 100 feet to stop. At 65 mph, it takes at least 525 feet for a truck to come to a complete stop.
- Road Conditions – Road conditions can significantly impact stopping distance. On a dry road, it could take 100 feet for a truck to come to a stop. However, with less traction on an icy, wet, or slick road, a truck could require more than double that distance to stop. Potholes, road debris, and other conditions can also contribute to the distance needed to stop a moving truck.
- Reaction time – Reaction times also play an integral part in determining stopping distance. A truck driver who is aware of their surroundings and immediately applies the brakes when conditions change can bring their vehicle to a stop much faster and more safely than a driver with a slow reaction time. Driver fatigue or impairment because of drugs or alcohol can hurt a truck driver’s reaction time and lead to devastating truck accidents.
- Driver training and experience – It stands to reason that truck drivers with adequate training and extensive experience understand the intricacies and limitations of the vehicles they drive, which can include having a better grasp of stopping distances. Inexperienced or improperly trained truck drivers can lack the skills and knowledge to understand how external factors influence stopping distances. As a result, they may be unable to adjust their driving tactics accordingly.
Contact a Skilled New York Truck Accident Attorney Immediately
Truck drivers who fail to understand the nuances of stopping distance can cause catastrophic accidents on New York roadways. A motorist in the path of a large truck that cannot stop can face crippling physical and financial harm. Unfortunately, recovering the compensation you need from a trucking company or insurer can be immensely difficult. That’s where the legal team at Finz & Finz, P.C. can help. Our aggressive legal team can review your case and help you pursue the money you’re entitled to after you’ve been injured in a truck accident caused by someone else.
Contact our New York office today at 855-TOP-FIRM and arrange a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled New York truck accident attorneys. We have a long track record of helping people like you pursue the compensation they deserve following a traumatic truck accident.