Updated: Nov 10, 2018
Ok, so many people get into their ”own way of doing things" after they pass their driving test. Most people run with the phrase "bad habits" as to excuse the driving errors they've picked up over the years. This is a natural thing that happens with most people, no-one is perfect after all.
One key habit that comes to mind when people are out and about in cars (and bigger vehicles for that matter) is the temptation to hold their vehicle stationary on the footbrake whilst waiting at junctions, traffic lights, etc.
The majority of drivers get used to this routine and often have simply forgotten the reasons why this isn't the best method. Sitting on the footbrake causes a number of problems, not just for the driver, but for other road users as well.
The Handbrake & The Footbrake
First and foremost, holding the car stationary for an extended period of time by keeping your foot on the brake, instead of using the handbrake, increases the likelihood of you "shooting forward" if some inattentive person decides to ruin your day by crashing into the back of you. In most cases, if someone hits you from behind, your foot will release the brake pedal, meaning the car is free to go forward as there's no longer any brakes being applied. If you have the handbrake on however, you have more of a chance of staying somewhat stationary (obviously depending on the speed of the other vehicle).
2 Handbrakes 2 Footbrakes
You can see what I'm trying (and most likely failing) to do with the titles here. They see me rollin', they hatin'? Know the song? It is definitely to do with people not applying their handbrakes... definitely. Ok, maybe not, but the point is still the same. Rolling into the vehicle in front is a pretty embarrassing scenario, that should never happen, right? You'd think so, but it's actually relatively common. People are used to sitting on their brakes rather than applying the handbrake as they forget that they have not put their handbrake on, they then release the brakes whilst paying attention to something else. Before you know it have created a nice little dent into the back bumper of the vehicle in front of them. It may not cause damage if it's very slow, but the damage it will do to your pride when you have to get out of your car and apologise surely isn't worth the risk. It may be better to just secure the car with the handbrake.
The Handbrake & The Footbrake: Tokyo Drift
This is where other people factor in more. Have you ever driven with a headache? Not a very pleasant experience. Night time driving or driving in the rain (not that we get a lot of rain over here) can be pretty miserable. Now imagine driving at night, in the rain, with a headache... Then imagine the person sat in front of you is intent on making the inside of your car look like the scene from a horror movie. RED! It’s all red! Blinding you with their brake lights. Decreasing your concentration on the road ahead as you can barely see past those three red lights now burning their way into your retinas. Granted, this isn't a big issue on a nice summer’s day, but in winter, or the rain or at night, or a combination of all of those, it can become a real issue for drivers. Although, if you're very petty, you can take some comfort in the fact that the person blinding you with their brake lights is wearing them out at a slightly faster rate and will have at pay upwards of £10 to replace them more regularly.
Handbrake & Footbrake
Ok, I'll admit that the Fast and the Furious titling sequence isn't working particularly well, but it's too late to change it now.
This. This is why! People seem to think that they can "get away quicker" when moving away after sitting on the brake pedal, rather than when the handbrake has been applied. This is not really true. With practice and planning, you can move off in the same amount of time by getting your vehicle ready to go and releasing the handbrake. Many cars now come with an electronic handbrake (or parking brake as the manufacturers prefer to call it) meaning that sitting on the brake pedal is entirely unnecessary.
Ok so I’m going to abandon the Fast and the Furious titling sequence now. If you didn’t get it, I’m sorry. If you did get it, I’m also sorry.
I won’t go into the specifics of different types of vehicle handbrakes, or the debate with automatic vehicles, but feel free to have a discussion in the comments.
In a nutshell, securing your vehicle using the handbrake when stationary for any extended period of time is safer, less stressful (for other road users) and will cause less wear and tear to your vehicle. Many instructors teach the unbelievably cheesy line, “if a pause becomes a wait, then the handbrake is your mate.” Yes, that’s how cheesy it is, but if that little phrase sticks in your mind, and you action it when you’re behind the wheel, this whole article will have been worth it.
Advanced Driving Techniques
Securing the vehicle with the handbrake when stationary for any significant length of time is best practice, however if there is not a vehicle behind you, it is safer to hold the foot brake (with the handbrake already applied) just to show the brake lights and make it more obvious to approaching vehicles that you are stopped.
If you have any ideas or topics that you would like to see me discuss, please feel free to add them in the comments.
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