Braking may not seem to be such a big deal. Just apply the brake, right? Well actually, keeping safe on the road and braking properly is more of an art than you might think.
Seven great braking tips to help keep you and other road users safe
- Don’t constantly apply the brakes. Learn to observe the traffic and understand what may be happening around you. Speeding up, applying the brakes, slowing down, and then speeding up again wastes fuel, and your energy.
- When coming up to a red light, roundabout, STOP sign, school zone, or a roadside hazard, don’t slam on your brakes immediately beforehand. Look ahead and prepare to slow down. Take your foot off the accelerator and gently apply the brake to create a smooth slow down. Don’t nosedive to a quick halt.
- Ensure you can still see the rear tyres of the car in front when you come to a stop. This will leave you enough room to manoeuvre away if required. And you’ll have less chance of getting shoved into their rear bumper if a car hits you from behind.
- Emergency ABS braking – if your car has ABS braking and you need to make an emergency stop, simply smash your foot to the floor. That’s right. ABS doesn’t lock the front wheels so you can steer your vehicle to the safest spot even with your foot hard on the pedal.
- Emergency non-ABS braking – if you don’t have ABS braking then take some time on a deserted road or empty parking lot to practice emergency braking. It requires a much more gentle squeezing of the brakes and care not to lock the wheels. It does take some practice. Effectively you will do what ABS does – apply firm pressure and increase rapidly, but don’t stab at the brakes. If you lock the wheels, ease off the brakes so you can still control where the car goes.
- While today’s brakes are far more effective than in the past, you can still use your gears to slow down a vehicle. This technique is good for steep downhill runs and when towing a heavy load. Select a lower gear to assist the engine and prevent the brakes from overheating.
- When taking a corner, apply the brakes to slow down before you enter the turn. As you go into the turn, begin to gently release the brakes and then accelerate smoothly.
Seven braking terms to know and understand
1. Normal braking
Brake early, apply gentle pressure, ease off as you come to a stop.
2. Emergency braking
Don’t brake so sharply you lock the wheels. ABS – depress the pedal all the way. Non-ABS – brake to about 70%. However, it’s better to brake too hard than too little in an emergency.
3. Braking in bad weather
Proceed with caution in wet, icy, and snowy conditions. Brake earlier rather than later. Brake gently. Don’t brake sharply as you may skid. Be careful in the wet as brakes may not be dry, and therefore may not be as effective.
4. Braking after driving through water
After driving through water, test the effectiveness of your brakes by gently applying pressure when it’s safe to do so. If they are not working a well as they should, slow down and apply gentle pressure to dry them out.
5. Braking and turning / changing direction
Avoid braking and turning at the same time as this may mean you do neither very safely, or effectively.
This is a basic technique for turning a corner that you need to master. To give front tyres more grip for steering, turn the wheel into the corner and lightly apply the brakes. This will cause the car to lean forward slightly thus applying pressure to the front tyres.
7. Trail braking
Similar to brake turning, trail braking is where you lightly pump or ‘feather’ the brakes while turning into a corner. This also applies pressure to the front tyres, increasing grip on the road.
In an emergency, focus on where you want your vehicle to go, NOT where you don’t want it to go. By looking to the end point, you are more likely to successfully steer your vehicle to safety.