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Running with Cars: The Distance a Car Needs to Stop

Running with Cars: The Distance a Car Needs to Stop

POP QUIZ: How Long Does it Take a Car To Stop?

You probably knew this at one time. And one time only: the day you took your written driver’s test. And it’s long gone now.

Something rings a bell about car lengths and wet roads and pumping brakes, but in reality, you have no idea. So you leave plenty of room, you don’t take chances and when you see a runner or cyclist like yourself, you always slow way down, give them wide berth and maybe a ‘hi’ sign, and be on your way.

That’s because you know what it’s like to be in his shoes. You’ve been out, later than you wanted, maybe later than you should have. You’ve had your share of “Is this car gonna stop?” and “Doesn’t this idiot see me?” moments.

Just in case the answer is “Eventually” and “No, not yet”, the responsibility is yours. You need to be armed with relevant information that can help protect you from injury from an oncoming car. Because most drivers aren’t runners, most aren’t bikers. They’re driving, listening to Bloomberg or Howard Stern or their kids yelling. They’re possibly rushing, in an unfamiliar locale, maybe with a beer or two on board.

So you need to know what it’s going to take to stop the car that’s headed for you. You may not be able to avoid a scare, but you need to do everything you can to avoid catastrophe.

So here’s the math:


Traveling 30 mph on dry pavement: 75’

Sounds like plenty, no?


75’ is the length of a tennis court. The green part. Baseline to baseline.

Take the net down and you could cross that in, what, seconds? Yes. So imagine a car driver first recognizes that he should swerve to avoid hitting you at one end of the tennis court, while you’re running or, worse, cycling toward him. It’s too close to call what happens next.

The key is signaling the driver with as much lead time as possible that you are moving, human and therefore to be avoided at all cost. Whatever you can do to shorten the time between a drivers’ eyes and brain to alert him to take preventative action makes the difference between a missed heartbeat and a trip to the ER.

So whether you’re cycling, running or just walking the dog at night, a car heading toward you needs the length of a tennis court to stop before hitting you.

That’s a little too close for comfort, isn’t it?



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