We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Why you should give the brakes a break

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, July 15th 2016

Many professional big-rig drivers can descend the Malahat without ever using their brakes. Can you?

The best drivers on the road are the ones who use their brakes the least. This may seem strange to the typical driver, but it is true.

Drivers who use the brakes sparingly are looking well ahead and giving themselves ample time to slow or stop for all sorts of hazards. They do not brake while doing turns in the city or in curves of the highway. The good drivers, mostly professionals, can use the gears to reach an optimum speed prior to, not during a turn. Drivers should be accelerating at the midpoint of the turn or dramatic curve on the highway.

In urban areas, it is best to time the green light cycle in order to reduce the number of stops. Since the most common crash is the rear-end collision, it is logical to reduce the number of times a driver must come to a full stop. Most city traffic engineers will time the traffic light cycles to accommodate a smooth ride for several city blocks, without the necessity to stop for intersecting traffic.

It is best to choose a lane of travel with the least likelihood of a predictable and unnecessary stop potential. Sometimes it is the right lane, to avoid the left-turn delay at an intersection. Other times it is a left or middle lane, meant to avoid right-turners yielding to pedestrians.

Lane choice is not the only way to reduce the number of stops on a daily commute. Route selection is often used by the pros to avoid several stops. There are times of the day when the freeway is the best route to take, and other times when less-traveled commuter roads are a better choice.

Every driver should self-test. This exercise involves taking the same route to work or any other regular trip, and counting the number of times one has to use the brakes. This behaviour will inevitably cause a driver to look much further ahead. It allows everyone who drives this way to not only react sooner to predicted hazards, but also avoid the normal stops that plague inattentive drivers.

When you do this drill, it will become easy to look further ahead, choose the proper lane, the best route and time the traffic lights. Counting the number of times you must use the brakes will become easier when the number inevitably decreases with practice.

Most passenger vehicles sold these days have automatic transmissions. Some have paddle-shifters and others have different shift modes, depending on the sophistication of the vehicle’s engineering. Gearing down on the back side of a hill is a good way to control speed and avoid having to overuse the brakes.

Despite one’s best efforts, there are times when a driver is forced to brake. Sometimes it is better to tap the brakes once or twice to alert a driver who is traveling too close behind. The four-way flashers are also effective in this situation.

Braking is obviously necessary when others make driving errors and there is no escape route, as in a tunnel, on a bridge or a narrow road.

Surprisingly, there are few drivers who have ever practiced emergency braking. It is something every driver should do, especially when getting familiar with a new vehicle.







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