Tag Archives | braking

Better braking

When you need to slow down try to avoid frequent tapping of your brake pedal as this makes drivers around you unsure if you’re actually stopping. On the other hand, don’t brake at the last moment. Give drivers behind you plenty of time to notice that you’re braking so they can do likewise. A good time to start braking is when you notice the car in front of the one you’re following braking, this will help you to break more smoothly. The best way to reduce your speed is simply to come off your gas pedal. This requires the ability to look ahead and demands greater anticipation, but this will lower your fuel bills and is better for the environment.

Brake before the bend

Country roads often have sharp bends with overgrown verges, bushes and trees which can block your view and obscure an oncoming hazard. In this situation, a good driver will ‘read’ the road ahead and anticipate hazards such as upcoming bends, blind summits and concealed entrances. To stay in control of your car, always give yourself time to react. You don’t know what’s around the corner so always brake before a bend, not on it. Drive at a speed which allows you to stop in the distance you can see to be clear and double this on a single-track country road.

Harsh braking

If you find yourself braking harshly, it’s probably due to lack of observation and planning. If your eyes aren’t constantly scanning, nor is your brain, so you’ll miss potential hazards. Not observing properly means you can’t plan what you’ll do if a potential hazard develops into a situation that will affect you – and if you can’t avoid a sudden hazard quickly and safely, you’re driving too fast.

The best advice: think about the 4 Ss. Anything that has the potential to make you Stop, Slow down, Swerve or Swear should be reacted to earlier to avoid harsh braking. When you can see this is going to happen, just take your foot off the gas pedal and put your foot over the brake pedal – by doing this early you’re stopping acceleration, so the power of the engine is naturally reduced and the force needed to then slow down or stop the car is far less. You’re also saving yourself some reaction time by already having your foot over the brake. You’ll then have more time to assess the risk and avoid braking harshly.

Brake to perfection

Gentle, planned braking is something we all aspire to. Everyday you see examples of drivers who brake too late leaving skid marks on the tarmac. The key to good braking is anticipation. Don’t rely on the brakes to get you out of trouble because you failed to plan for the hazard ahead in good time. Remember the 4Ss, anything that has the potential to make you stop, slow down, swerve or swear should be reacted to earlier to avoid harsh braking.

A good way to develop sensitive braking is to imagine that you want to bring the car to a stop without your passengers noticing. By increasing pressure on the pedal smoothly you will ‘brush off’ most of the speed so at the right moment you’ll be able to bring your foot off the brake pedal without leaving the brakes biting to the bitter end. This is possible with a bit of practice: ease up on the brake pedal imperceptibly just as you are about to stop in the last metre or so. This allows you to roll gently to a stop without the vehicle’s nose dipping or a jerk. Braking should be a single, sustained use of the pedal – with the maximum pressure applied during the middle phase. This gentle approach also gives a good indication to the driver behind that you are slowing down which in turn gives them more time to react

Avoid causing traffic jams

A motorway tailback, particularly one you can’t see an end to, is infuriating. And it’s even more annoying to discover there’s no apparent reason for it. That is of course not the case – there’s always a reason. And, believe it or not, you may have contributed to a tailback or two in the past.

Watch out for the ‘domino effect’ caused by brake tapping. This happens when drivers travel too close together or react before reading the road ahead. The result is that one person touches their brakes, then someone behind who may not be watching any further ahead than the bumper in front touches theirs. Every driver in the queue has to use their brakes a little more than the car in front, which in a long line of cars driving close together means that eventually a car will have to stop. This is a common phenomenon.

To most drivers the solution is obvious: back away from the car in front. Sometimes it’s not that simple. The most important thing is to keep paying attention. People often find themselves driving in the wrong lane or drifting down to 50-60mph because their mind isn’t on the job. Always signal what you’re doing, and anticipate ahead of yourself. If you see that ‘oh no, there’s going to be a snarl up’ further up the road, you’ve got more time to deal with it if you’re looking well ahead.

Keep your distance

Managing the space of the driver behind you is just as important as the space in front. If you’re faced with a tailgater there are various actions to take. The first and most obvious is to grin and bear it, but this still leaves you vulnerable if the car ahead stops suddenly. Another common reaction is to brake sharply to ‘teach the following driver a lesson’ or touch the brake pedal lightly to illuminate the brake lights without slowing the car down. This might seem like a good idea as you’re simply giving the driver a wake-up call, but it could provoke road rage and the driver behind may over react causing someone to slam into the back of their car.

Speeding up to escape is not a good idea either as you’ll be decreasing your forward safety gap if there’s a car in front. On an open road you’re at of risk driving blindly into danger without enough space to stop suddenly. Added to this, there’s a strong chance the following driver will speed up with you. Doubling your forward safety gap could also provoke erratic overtaking as the follower sees his gap!

The best solution is to add one second to your forward safety gap by easing back gently and opening the gap ahead you. This extra second will allow time for you to spread your braking and give the following driver time to react and reduce the risk of erratic overtaking. If the driver persists in tailgating, slow down further or pull in and allow him to pass, but leave out the cheery wave.

Brake lights in a queue

The Highway Code is clear, you must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users. Yet, a recent AA survey found that more than a quarter of drivers admit to keeping their foot on the brake when stationary in a queue of traffic – 17 per cent put the transmission in neutral but keep their foot on the brake, and 15 per cent keep the car in gear and their foot on the brake.

Modern brake lights, particularly high-mounted central brake lights can be dazzling for the driver behind in a queue. The Highway Code addresses this issue and says in stationary queues of traffic, you should apply the parking brake and, once the following traffic has stopped, take your foot off the footbrake to deactivate the brake lights and minimise glare to road users behind until the traffic moves again.

A turn for the worse

Have you found yourself braking in a bend because it was sharper than you thought? If you have then think about how you assess the severity of bends, especially on country roads. Apart from road signs, markings and skid marks, there are a number of clues you can take from the environment such as the line of trees, hedges, buildings and street lights.

Another useful way of assessing a bend is to use the ‘limit point analysis’. The limit point is the furthest point which you can see, ie, where the left and right hand sides of the road meet. To use this technique make sure that you can stop before you get to it, then ask yourself: is it getting further away? If it is and you can see further ahead then your speed should be fine. Alternatively, if it is getting closer then you should continue to reduce your speed until the limit point begins to move with you and your view opens up again. This technique takes a bit of practice but it will help you to link your speed with your range of vision – and on roads where you can’t see through the bends it gives you a reliable and practical solution to a difficult judgement problem.

Green way to brake

Try to brake as little as possible – slow down and take your foot off the accelerator earlier when approaching a bend, queue, junction, roundabout or red traffic lights. By looking further ahead and starting to do things earlier you’ll avoid excessive braking. We’ve all got better things to spend our money on than petrol – and green driving can save 15 per cent on your bills.