Editor’s Note: The following column by Mark Polk appears in the latest RV Education 101 newsletter offering tips for safe braking in an RV.
Getting to your favorite camping destination is half the fun as the saying goes, but getting there safely is the most important thing.
When you tow a trailer or drive a motorhome it takes longer to stop than it does in an automobile. The heavier the vehicle or truck/trailer combination is the longer the it takes to stop it.
The Braking Equation
Understanding the braking equation can help, especially in an emergency braking situation. When you apply the brakes to stop a vehicle there are four phases that comprise the braking equation.
The four phases are:
- Perception time:The time it takes to recognize you need to stop.
- Reaction time: The time it takes to apply the brakes.
- Brake lag: The time it takes after you apply pressure to the pedal until the brakes start to engage.
- Stopping distance: The distance you travel after the brakes engage.
Now let’s take a closer look at what you can do to improve the braking equation and get to your destination safely.
Of the four phases you only have control over one.
- Your reaction time is your reaction time and there is not much you can do to improve it.
- Brake lag varies with vehicles and different types of braking systems. On vehicles with air brakes it can take a half-second or longer. You cannot change brake lag.
- The only control you really have over stopping distance is maintaining the RV’s tires and brakes.
- That leaves perception time, the one phase you do have control over.
For example if you are traveling 55 mph and it takes you three seconds to perceive or recognize the need to stop you traveled about 240 additional feet before you start to react.
But if you are mentally alert and aware of your surroundings you can improve your perception time to less than one second. That means rather than traveling 240 feet before recognizing the need to stop you only travel 60 feet before you react. You will stop 180 feet sooner just by improving your perception time.
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