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Braking Safely

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 20 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Braking Safely Normal Braking Emergency

Being able to brake safely plays a big role in driving safely, but it involves more than simply knowing how much pressure to apply to the brakes; safe braking also involves working out the relevant stopping distance.

‘Normal’ Braking

Under normal circumstances (on a dry and relatively clear road), you should brake early and apply gentle pressure to the brakes. As you feel the vehicle begin to stop, apply a little more pressure, but ease off as you come to a full stop so that you do not stop too abruptly.

Emergency Braking

If an unexpected situation arises that requires you to stop, you should brake straight away, but try to avoid braking too sharply, as this can cause your wheels to lock up and your vehicle to skid.

Stopping Distances

Stopping distances refer to the distance that it takes for your vehicle to stop. You should drive at a speed that will allow you to stop within the distance you have available to you. The recommended stopping distance is at least two seconds. This involves keeping at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front, and is measured using a fixed point - when the vehicle in front passes a fixed point, it should be at least two seconds before you also pass the same point.

On roads that are wet or icy, the stopping distance should be much more than two seconds, as there is less grip.

Driving Through Water

If you have to drive through a considerable amount of water, your brakes can lose their effectiveness for a while afterwards. You can test their level by braking gently to see if they work properly, but make sure that you do this only when it is safe to do so. If you find that they do not work as effectively as normal, apply light pressure to the brakes while you are driving at a fairly slow pace, as this will dry them out.

Braking in Bad Weather

If the road is wet or icy, you will usually need to alter your braking style to compensate. This is particularly the case in icy conditions. It is extremely easy to lose control when taking a bend. The safest way to negotiate it is to brake gently on the straight leading up to a bend, so that you are travelling slowly when you reach the bend. Avoid braking sharply as this can lead to a skid. If you are worried about the grip (or lack of it) on the road, you can test it by braking gently (as outlined in the above section) to gauge the effectiveness. Do not leave it until just before a bend to test the brakes, as you will not have enough time to dry them out before you need to break.

Braking safely is relatively simple, but many drivers do not practice it. Apart from making driving safer, knowing the best way to brake in certain situations also preserves your brakes, which are prone to wear and tear if you frequently apply sharp pressure to them (rather than the recommended gentle pressure over a longer distance).

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