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Topic 5 Braking with our foot and our brain

An Exploration into Emergency Braking

Business-Risk Consulting's emphasis on Road Safety frequently leads us to explore the concept of “Emergency Braking”.

While driving, one may encounter hazardous situations that necessitate sudden braking. But how does this process actually work?

The Process of Braking

Braking, at its core, involves pressing your brake pedal with your right foot to reduce speed or halt your vehicle. However, this action requires quick decision-making, which is controlled by our brain. This process results in what we call the “Reaction Time”.

This instantaneous decision (approximately 1 second) is a period during which no real action is taken.

Surprisingly, during this “reaction time”, your vehicle continues to move. Depending on your average speed, your vehicle will cover a certain distance on the ground before your right foot comes off the gas pedal and pivots towards the brake pedal.

This transition takes roughly another half-second, further delaying immediate braking.

The Dance Between Our Feet: Introducing the Foot-Brake Technique

In a previous newsletter, we highlighted the "Foot-Brake" technique, a preventive approach taught in our Defensive Road Safety Driver Training.

By anticipating potential hazards and applying this technique, drivers can:

  1. Reduce their reaction time

  2. Minimize the distance covered during this reaction time

  3. Increase braking power

  4. Decrease the distance covered during braking

Typically, when driving, we use our right foot to alternate between the brake and gas pedals. This action has become an automatic reflex, ingrained in our brains over time.

Unfortunately, the force used to press both the gas and the brake pedals is relatively the same and typically smooth. In contrast, our left foot, which presses the clutch (in manual gearbox vehicles) or rests on the footrest (in automatic gearbox vehicles), uses more strength and thus engages more muscles.

The Left Foot Braking Experiment

This leads us to the question: Could we use our left foot to brake?

As part of our driving course, we perform an interesting exercise to explore this possibility.

During this exercise, drivers travel at 50km/h and brake at a specified point to avoid an obstacle. In the first session, drivers brake using their right foot.

We keep a record of the results and provide immediate feedback, repeating the exercise until the expected outcome is achieved.

In the second session, drivers repeat the process but use only their left foot to brake.

The results are often significant, with some drivers stopping before the obstacle in one attempt or even stopping at a shorter distance than they did when using their right foot.

Learning Outcomes:

The main reason for these results is that our left foot is unaccustomed to braking. This unfamiliar action causes our brain to apply the same force as it would to the clutch, resulting in more pressure and greater braking power.

There are no specific records or rules regarding the distance saved when using the left foot to brake. However, this exercise forms part of our Driver Training to raise awareness about the limitations of our right foot, which regularly lacks the necessary strength for emergency braking due to its habitual smooth transitions between pedals.

But keeping in mind this is just to make our students aware, and it is only a guided and specific exercise delivered on a track which does not mean at all we train them to use their left foot instead of their right though!

For additional information about our #Defensive #RoadSafety #DriverTraining program, please feel free to reach out to us at:

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