How to Handle Brake Failure Safely While Driving to Avoid Accidents
There are many things that can go wrong when driving a car, but the scariest is failing brakes. When you’re cruising on the highway and you see cars stopped up ahead, pushing on the brakes only to find that nothing happens, can quickly send any driver into a panic. Although brake failure is rare, it does happen, and the more you are prepared, the better equipped you are to handle brake failure safely and avoid injury and accidents.
How to Prepare for Brake Failure
We practice fire safety at home, at school, and at work. But many of us have actually been in a real fire. Just in case, the best way to handle any scary situation is to practice and prepare ahead of time. The same is true for brake failure. In an emergency, staying calm is the key factor, and the more you practice and prepare for an emergency situation, the more likely you are to come out of it unscathed.
Staying Calm in the Face of Brake Failure
If you go to brake and your brakes become unresponsive, try to stay calm. If you panic, you are more likely to cause an accident and suffer injuries. The first step to handling brake failure safely is to stay calm and not panic. The next step is to alert other drivers that you’re having a problem. Using your emergency lights is a good way to indicate to other drivers that something is up, and they should move around you or keep their distance.
Slowing Down Despite Failing Brakes
There are two ways to slow down your vehicle despite failing brakes. The first is to start to downshift. This is much easier with a manual transmission, but even with an automatic, you can still move the car from D to 3 and 2, sometimes 1. Regardless of whether you have a manual or automatic, shift down from one gear to the next. Don’t get overly excited and go from 5th to 2nd, because you may end up with transmission problems.
Putting the Car in Reverse
A common mistake is thinking that if you throw your car in reverse it will slow your car. This is not true. Under no circumstances should you put your car in reverse in the event of brake failure. This is dangerous for you, and it is destructive to your car.
Pump your Brakes
Failing brakes will still be able to slow down your car, it will just happen more slowly which can be scary. Cars that have been made within the last decade or so will most likely have an anti-lock braking system (ABS) which means that you need to simply press down hard on the brakes and allow them to build pressure on their own. If you have an older car, you’ll need to pump the brakes, building up the pressure and slowing down the car.
You can also use your parking brake to slow down. However, go slow. Don’t just yank the parking brake on as hard as you can, move it slowly and consistently, slowing down your car. You want to slow your car down, not cause a sudden and dramatic stop.
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