When brakes fail without warning, knowing what to do and acting quickly can prevent a motor vehicle crash resulting in serious injury or death.
When Brakes Fail
Unexpected brake failure while driving can be a terrifying scenario that results in severe injuries and fatalities. Drivers expect their brakes to work properly when they hit the brake pedal to stop or slow down for traffic signals, stop signs, and in emergency situations. Although technological advances have reduced the possibility of brake failure, it still occurs from defective parts, leaky hydraulic lines, worn brake pads and rotors, and lack of regular vehicle inspections and maintenance.
When brakes fail, it’s important to think quickly and maneuver the vehicle to a safe location. If the vehicle has regular brakes, rather than anti-lock brakes, pumping the brakes several times may help to build up brake fluid pressure. If there’s no response after 3 or 4 pumps, drivers should take other steps.
Downshifting to a Lower Gear
Whether the vehicle has a manual or automatic drive system, taking the foot off the gas pedal and downshifting to a lower gear will slow the vehicle down. If traveling at a high rate of speed, it can take several minutes to reduce speed, so it’s important to stay calm and focused. If brakes fail in heavy traffic, it may be harder to avoid a car accident, but the impact will likely be at a slower speed.
Applying the Emergency Brake
Applying the emergency brake may not stop the vehicle, but it will slow it down. Knowing where the emergency brake is located and how to properly use it could prevent serious injuries and fatalities. Some vehicles have a foot pedal located to the left of the gas and brake pedals, while others have a hand-activated lever.
Pulling the Vehicle Over
When brakes fail, getting the vehicle to a safe location is essential. Drivers should alert other motorists by turning on hazard lights. They should try to get out of traffic by maneuvering to the side of the road. If moving to the right side of the road isn’t possible, driver should move to the left shoulder or a grassy area if one is nearby. If traveling on a freeway, an exit ramp may provide a safe stopping place.