Friday 24 November 2023

Is left-foot braking OK?

 Is left foot braking OK?

There is a lot of disagreement about left-foot braking and whether it actually makes you safer on the road or that you may be creating a hazard for other road users.

There are vehicles which require left-foot operation, for example go-karts and motorcycles.  And it’s a technique often used by racing car and rally drivers where maintaining power while braking is crucial.  Left-foot braking can potentially save fractions of a second it takes for your right foot to move to the brake pedal.  There are no laws against left-foot braking. However, there are a number of reasons why you should consider right-foot braking and chief amongst those is the safe operation of a car.

Motoring organisations recommend right-foot braking as a method of safe driving.  The brake can be adequately covered by the right foot when approaching potential hazardous situations.  So, by using this method, the driver can brake with their right foot while bracing with their left foot on the footrest. This method also avoids the scenario of both feet pressing accelerator and brake at the same time.

In most cars, brake pedals are positioned for your right-foot.  In an interview, Formula One racing car driver Oscar Piastri stated that the ergonomics of most road cars do not support left foot braking.  You would potentially be putting your left foot where your right foot should be.

There is no law against left-foot braking, and in driving tests, the brakes should be operated smoothly and effectively to maintain control of the car.  Nevertheless, left-foot braking is not looked at favourably when doing a practical driving test.  In Queensland, left-foot braking constitutes a non-critical error in the Q-Safe Driving Test criteria.  

Criteria Q-Safe Driving Test

In newer modern cars, there are some overriding features to make braking safer.  Scenarios of drivers driving through shop fronts by pushing both brake and accelerator at the same time can be avoided with a computer override.  Many new cars have throttle-by-wire (the accelerator pedal has no physical connection, but is connected by wire to the engine), so it’s easy to kill the throttle via ECU (engine control unit) intervention when both pedals are pressed at the same time.  Some would argue that the scenario described here could be more easily avoided with right-foot braking.

NRMA driver training recommends the right foot be used for one task at a time. When accelerating the right foot is used on the accelerator pedal and when braking the right foot is used on the braking pedal. The left foot is placed on the foot position provided in the foot well of the driver compartment. The left foot can be used on the clutch pedal when changing gears in a manual vehicle.

Professional driving instructors will advise you to use your right foot for braking whether you are driving a manual or automatic vehicle.  Instructors will encourage you to concentrate on developing good hazard perception skills. One technique would be removing the right foot from the accelerator pedal and then covering the brake pedal with the right foot to reduce reaction time.  Many drivers do this automatically when approaching traffic lights that have been green for a considerable time and anticipate the possibility of the lights changing as they approach the intersection.  Left-foot braking offers very small compensation for undeveloped hazard perception.

Although there may be specific situations where left-foot braking, it is much safer to use your right foot for braking in normal day-to-day safe driving.




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