Breaking the Brake Reflex
True, we do our best to avoid dangerous situations while driving, but when they DO emerge, we get a surge of adrenaline and our fight-or-flight instincts kick in. One of those instincts is to lift our foot from the gas pedal and apply it hard to the brake pedal, henceforth known as the “brake-foot reflex”.
Ah, the brake pedal. What would we do without you? That pedal on the left (or the far left, if you drive a stick-shift with a clutch) is just as essential for driving, if not more, than any other component on the automobile.
However, it’s also our twitchy brake-pedal foot that gets us into trouble in tense situations on the road. That’s right. Hitting the brakes can sometimes be a BAD thing!
1) Traffic Court vs. the Hospital
We all want to obey traffic laws and avoid paying excessive amounts of money for a ticket that could have been avoided. That’s why reacting to traffic lights can be a point of contention to many a novice driver.
For the most part, hard braking at a traffic light is avoidable, keeping in mind that just because a light is green NOW, doesn’t mean it’ll be green in five seconds. Sometimes, though, lights will catch us by surprise and make us react, and the fear of a ticket will trigger the “brake-foot” reaction. Many young drivers will take it to the extreme by skidding past the line, then backing up. Not only is this MORE illegal than running a red light, but it’s extremely dangerous.
Slamming on brakes to avoid a traffic citation gives drivers behind you little to no time to react, increasing the likelihood of a pile-up. Then, boom, you get hit from behind, get pushed out into the intersection anyway and get T-boned. So much for saving money. Long story short, we don’t recommend running red lights, but if you’re going to run a red light, just run it.
2) Rain and Snow
In the worst possible weather conditions, many have experienced losing control of their vehicle because of aquaplaning or slick road surfaces caused by rain or black ice. “Oh, no! I’m losing control and I’m going too fast!” What’s the first thing we all want to do? Yep. Hit the brakes.
And of course, the problem lies in the nature of the hazard. As soon as our wheels begin to lock up, that’s when the car begins to spin even more out of control and actually INCREASE our chances of crashing.
3) Animal Interference
Okay, now THIS is the perfect time to slam on brakes, right?
First, braking hard for animals means giving anyone behind you less time to react. Plus, the screeching tires or sudden engine noises will likely only make the animal panic even more, and a leaping animal can cause FAR more damage to an automobile than one that didn’t know what hit it. Just ask Texans about armadillos and radiators.
Then, there’s the danger of hitting a large animal. Having one’s foot on the brake pedal during impact greatly increases the risk of suffering a broken ankle, among other things.
No, the best thing to do is pay attention and plan an alternative route. If the situation happens suddenly and there’s no way to avoid hitting an animal, just hit it head on.
Yes, the brake pedal is a device built into an automobile to help keep control while driving. That’s why it seems so counter-intuitive to imagine AVOIDING hitting the brake in times of lost control. In these situations, though, the best thing to do is to let go of the brake-foot reflex and trust that the car will do what it was built to do.
That and pay attention to the road to avoid these situations in the first place. That always helps.
First Baldwin Insurance