How To Master Braking

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

It goes without saying that braking is a core skill of driving, but sadly, many drivers today simply do not know how to do so properly and safely.

Bad driving habits, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) and driving without due care and attention seem to have resulted in a loss of the skill of braking.

In reality, knowing how to bring a car to a half quickly and safely is one of the single most important aspects of driving a vehicle.

For learner drivers, braking can be tricky to master.

You may find yourself pressing too firmly and jolting the car as a result or just struggling to get used to the handling of the car when slowing down.

Picking up these core skills at an early stage in your driver education is vital.

It will help you to feel more comfortable on the road and more confident in performing other manoeuvres and driving on different types of roads.

There are two types of braking that this guide will look at.

They are:

Progressive Braking:

This is a slower and safer form of braking that you will use as you’re bringing the car to a stop in general conditions, such as when you’re approaching traffic lights or at a junction.

Emergency Stop Braking:

An emergency stop is used when an immediate danger or obstacle is in the road ahead and you need to stop immediately.

Both of the above types of braking have different techniques, both of which we will look at on this page.

What You Will Learn

Being able to stop your vehicle quickly, smoothly and confidently is a given if you’re going to pass your driving test.

Therefore, this guide will teach you the techniques required to do so.

Stopping safely can prevent road traffic accidents, give you more control when driving built-up areas and also give you a means of stopping in case of emergency situations.

Once you are confident with the skill of bringing a car to a stop, the rest of the skills required in learning to drive will also feel much more achievable.

Our guide on how to master braking is broken down in to the following areas:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide: Progressive Braking

We will first explain the step-by-step process of progressive braking, the safest way to slow your vehicle and bring it to a stop if required.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings and leave yourself plenty of time and space for braking.
  • Gently press the break pedal down until you feel the point at which the brakes engage and the car begins to slow.
  • As you begin to approach the position at which you want to stop, you can begin to release the break as the car slows, or perhaps gently press again if you’re going to over-shoot it. Once you have mastered the technique, you should be able to stop exactly where you want every time.
  • Finally, as the car begins to slow and enter the feather stage – when revs are low – you will need to press the clutch around 3-4 meters from the point at which you want to stop. This is crucial to prevent stalling.

Step-By-Step Guide: Emergency Stop

Emergency stops are necessary when an obstruction occurs immediately ahead and you need to bring your vehicle to a complete and immediate stop.

This technique will differ slightly depending on whether the car you are driving has ABS brakes or not.

We will describe the differences below.

Emergency Stop With ABS Braking System:

  • Press the brake pedal firmly but smoothly. Your action should be rapid but not instant. Do not squeeze the pedal as hard as you can – the trick is to brake as hard as you can without the car losing traction with the road.
  • You may feel a slight juddering through your brake pedal. This is normal and is in fact the ABS cutting in to ensure the car is stopping in the way it has been designed to do.
  • Do not concentrate on changing gears and do not swerve the car. You need to be focussed on stopping the car. Also shift your focus to where you want to take the car, not at whatever the obstacle is in front of you.

Emergency Stop Without ABS Braking System:

  • Press the brake pedal hard, but again you’re aiming to ease off before the tyres lock up and grip is lost.
  • Brake hard, and then release the brake a little before pressing once again. This allows the car to maintain its grip while you are slowing down rapidly.
  • Do not swerve the car and aim for open space if possible, not at whichever obstacle is in front of you.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

These guides are a great starting point when you’re learning to drive and looking to pick up the technique of braking.

Practicing is absolutely key.

Do so as often as you can, even if that means finding a large plot of open space to rehearse the emergency stop routines.

Here are a few more hints and tips to consider when braking:

  • Don’t swerve or steer while braking and do not brake hard when you’re going around corners. This can cause the car to skid and very quickly a controlled situation can turn in to a dangerous one in which you have lost control and the vehicle has begun to skid.
  • Use the engine to slow you down – never underestimate how useful your gears are for maintain safe speeds, particularly in areas where traffic is slow moving or potential dangers (e.g. pedestrians) are close by.
  • Always maintain a safe stopping distance.
  • Check your tyres are legal and have enough grip for the road. Illegally worn tyres will make emergency stops, and even hard braking, potentially very dangerous.

Useful Information

Knowing what constitutes a safe stopping distance and being familiar with how to judge this is important when it comes to braking, so take the time to learn those early on in your driver education.

Also, the weather can play a significant role in the effectiveness of methods of braking, not to mention how safe each technique is.

Take the time to read about this ahead of the winter, for example, as it’s a very important part of learning to drive safely.

Final Thoughts

There are so many different scenarios which will force you to slow down in your car, whether you are progressively slowing or using an emergency stop technique.

Each has its own important advantages

It’s good to remember that when using a progressive braking technique, this is going to give drivers around you the most time to react to your actions.

If they’re behind, they will have time to slow down themselves without causing an accident.

In poor weather, this is particularly important.

It’s also important to keep in mind that maintaining a safe stopping distance is also crucial for the purposes of braking, be it progressive or in an emergency stop situation.

Further Resources