VAN drivers are risking accidents by failing to leave enough distance to stop according to research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles that shows more than half of van drivers don't know how heavy loads impact braking distances.
Many van drivers carry up to half a tonne of equipment on a daily basis which can increase braking distances by up to 36 per cent - equal to an extra five metres to stop at 60mph
Volkswagen conducted a series of brake tests at the MIRA Proving Grounds in Warwickshire on its range of vans, with the Caddy, Transporter and Crafter carrying varying weights from empty to 500kg at both 30mph and 60mph.
The results revealed that 30mph braking distances increased by an average of 33 per cent when vans had half a tonne of ballast on board - equal to an extra two metres travelled.
At 60mph, braking distances increased by an average of 19 per cent, or five metres.
However, a survey of some 500 van drivers revealed more than half couldn't identify how much longer it would take to brake when driving a loaded van, while just 17 per cent could correctly identify the Highway Code advised 30mph stopping distances.
Carl zu Dohna, director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: "We take our responsibilities to van drivers seriously and this research highlights a lack of knowledge that could prove lethal.
"Braking distances in the Highway Code are based on an advised standard and don't take into account the loads that many van drivers carry. Our research highlights an important safety message that van drivers could really benefit from.
"Whether they're plumbers, landscape gardeners or construction workers, our customers regularly carry half a tonne of equipment and need to be aware they need to adjust their driving style to avoid having a costly, and potentially serious, accident."
Supporting the research, Matthew Avery, director of research at UK vehicle safety specialists Thatcham Research, said: "This is an important message from a brand which is really leading the way in commercial van safety. We would also encourage van drivers to ensure that loads are well-secured, as movement of heavy items in the rear can also effect stability and stopping distance.
"This message follows 2017's announcement that all of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles' new vans will come with standard-fit Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), a first for a van maker."
If AEB was fitted to all commercial vehicles in the UK has the potential to stop almost 2,500 crashes per year.
AEB systems also have the potential to cut third party insurance claims by 45 per cent meaning lower costs and less time off the road for van drivers and fleet operators.
Vehicles fitted with autonomous emergency braking also benefit from an average insurance premium saving of 10 per cent compared to those without. The insurance rating of the latest Crafter was reduced by four groups thanks to standard fitment of AEB.