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The thinking distance is the distance travelled by the driver during the time it takes for them to react to a hazardous situation and apply the brakes (reaction time). The greater the reaction time of the driver, the greater the thinking distance and the greater the car's speed, the greater the thinking distance. Some factors which affect the reaction time of the driver and thus the thinking distance are being tired, being under the influence of alcohol or drugs and being distracted.
The reaction time is the time between the driver realises of a hazardous situation ahead and applies the breaks. The factors that affect reaction time are the same as those that affect thinking distance, due to the fact that thinking distance is determined by reaction time.
When the brakes are applied, work is done to stop the car by the frictional force of the brakes on the tyres, thus reducing the car's kinetic energy and bringing it to a stop. The breaking distance is the distance travelled by the car after the brakes are applied until the car stops. The breaking distance will be greater if there are poor tyre, brakes or road conditions. The greater the car's speed, the greater the thinking distance.
Stopping distance is the sum of the thinking distance and the breaking distance, ie. It is the distance travelled by the car between the time the danger ahead is first detected and the time the car comes to a stop.
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