Practical Stopping Distance As mentioned earlier, one of the most critical concerns in the design of a highway is the provision of adequate driver sight distance to permit a safe stop. The theoretical assessment of vehicle stopping distance presented in the previous section provided the principles of braking for an individual vehicle under specified roadway surface conditions. However, highway engineers face a more complex problem because they must design for a variety of driver skill levels (which can affect whether or not the brakes lock and reduce the coefficient of road adhesion to slide values), vehicle types (with varying aerodynamics, weight distributions, and brake efficiencies), and weather conditions (which change the roadway’s coefficient of adhesion). As a result of the wide variability inherent in the determination of braking distance, an equation is required that provides an estimate of typical observed braking distances and is more simplistic and usable.
The basic physics equation on rectilinear motion, assuming constant deceleration, is chosen as the basis of a practical equation for stopping distance:
2 2 2 1 2V V ad= + (2.44)
V2 = final vehicle speed in ft/s, V1 = initial vehicle speed in ft/s,
a = acceleration (negative for deceleration) in ft/s2, and d = deceleration distance (practical stopping distance) in ft.
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