Left Foot Braking

Left Foot BrakingI am occasionally asked about using the left foot for braking instead of the right foot. The usual justification given for this is that the brakes may be applied more quickly because the left foot is ready while the right foot is busy with the accelerator pedal. While there are different schools of thought on whether this is appropriate for highway driving it may not be a good idea for the average driver.

An important job for your left foot and the leg attached to it is to press against the raised portion on the left side of the driver's foot well. This action forces the driver into the seat and anchors the body leaving the arms free to steer with during lateral acceleration and heavy braking. Staying in complete control means not hanging on to the steering wheel in order to keep your body in position.

If you get lazy and ride the brake with your left foot enough to light the brake lights will confuse the driver behind you. Are you stopping or not? Confusion like this will lead to an increased chance of being hit from behind and contributes to excessive brake wear and poor fuel economy.

In the event of a collision, the resulting pressure on both the brake and the accelerator will reduce the effectiveness of the brakes at a time when they are needed.

Finally, check with your driving examiner. Left foot braking during a road test may not be acceptable in all circumstances.

Reference Links:

Comments

very accurate but...

i agree with everything stated except for one thing, that your left foot is for pressing against the footwell, well if you drive an automatic transmission maybe, but not if you have a clutch, depressing the clutch is very  important in stopping a vehicle, just as it is to put your car in Neutral  on ice with an automatic, left foot braking can be a very good skill to have, in certain situations,  especially parking or reversing, but as a normal driving technique i agree that it should not become habitual, have a great day everyone

Festering Situation

When automatic transmissions first appeared and I bought one I was thrilled to be able to control going and stopping precisely (I thought) by using one foot on each of the gas and the brake.

I thought I was better able to manage speed and stopping until I got mixed up one day and almost caused an accident.

I realized very early in this game it was unsafe and while this was way back in the mid 50s I’m amazed at how many people istill use both feet and I’m positive it is the cause of many accidents where logic just don’t add up.

I consider myself a defensive driver and I’m continually watching traffic far ahead, just ahead and around me.

I try to evaluate the driver ahead of me to determine if I need to be extra aware and if I think they are aware of me and others on the road.

When I notice brake lights frequently coming on when there is no apparent need I’m suspicious this driver is riding the brake with one foot and as such I need to be extra cautious around them because they may apply too much braking un necessarily and may not use the brake with what I consider to be good judgement. So I place then in a category of driver I need to be wary behind.

I’m sure drivers behind me are consciously or sub consciously evaluating my performance and determining what I may do if something happens ahead of me. What will I do? Could I stop? How will I impact their safety? They likely care less about my impact on them than I do about theirs on me :-)

Please delete ...

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Right brain, left brain?

First thing I'd like to mention, is that the links in the original post are well worth reading, particularly the input from Steve Wallace (who I've known casually for many years in the Driver Training business, and oftentimes don't agree with) but I would definitely endorse his comments.

For sure, drivers who brake with the left foot are potentially less stable in their seating position under severe transient steering maneuvers (think in terms of high speed turns, or driving fast through a slalom course) but few drivers actually do this on public roads. So what works for racing drivers isn't necessarily applicable to normal street driving. That's also why high performance cars will come with a driver's seat & belts that keeps them firmly in place even under heavy g-forces. Few of us ever encounter this sort of physical loading, though, and not in normal smooth, defensive driving.

There is an essential, fundamental difference between operating an accelerator (aka throttle) pedal and a brake pedal.

The accelerator, the arc it travels through from its own pivot point, is designed so that the driver's right foot can rest on the floor, pivoting from the heel. Unless you turn on the cruise control (a dangerous device, most of the time IMHO) then that same right foot can and should remain in basically the same place all the time that you're driving, unless you're applying the brakes.

But the pivot point for the brake pedal, and the long arc of travel, is quite different (even in a Porsche!). Trying to use it whilst keeping your heel on the floor is actually impossible in many vehicles (unless you have incredibly big feet and remarkably flexible ankles) if you're to do this with proper control.

So the human physiology is important to consider here, in terms of practical application. And in my estimation, most left foot braker’s aren't up to it; they inadvertently drag the brakes frequently, activating their stop lights so often that it's unclear when they're actually slowing  their vehicle, and oftentimes, such as when they're parallel parking, applying far too much stress on the driveline components as they shift between forward/reverse gears.

But even if you're not on a race track, there are practical applications when using the left foot to brake is the clever thing to do. Commencing with when you're stopped on a steep hill, particularly in a heavy vehicle, and want to avoid rollback. Put your left foot on the brake, add a little throttle with your right foot, and ease off the brake to move away smoothly; done right, nobody will ever notice - because you're in proper control of your vehicle, as you should be.

Using the left foot to brake when downshifting in an automatic can also allow you to use a gentle throttle application so as to keep things smooth. And if, by chance, you own an older vehicle (I'm thinking pre-1991 here) with a carburetor (rather than fuel injection) then it's smart to secure the vehicle with your left foot on the brake as you use the appropriate amount of throttle to start the motor effectively.

If you look at a typical Class 1 truck with airbrakes, the foot valve (aka brake pedal) will be centred between the clutch and the throttle pedals. There's a reason behind this, which many truck drivers don't realize; it's so that you can slow the vehicle with your left foot, while downshifting with your right foot (no clutch being used here). Typical application for this would be down-shifting several gears as you execute a turn whilst on a downgrade. Not that shifting without using the clutch in a rig is normally the right thing to do (the manufacturers of the transmissions will always recommend double-clutching) but the essential thing is to maintain the best control of the vehicle.

So it’s not a matter of whether left foot braking is right or wrong. It’s a matter of application. Also, that was a clever pun, in case you didn’t notice …

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