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3-Stage Braking

3-Stage Braking Technique

Driving Tips - Zipper's Driving School

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Age-old (but discredited) advice for approaching an intersection or corner was to "attack it", i.e. charge up to it aggressively, braking late and hard. Many heavy vehicle drivers still tend to do this.
Aggressive braking is still being advocated, usually by older drivers but I suspect also by some driving instructors in the NT, and even some of our licensing examiners seem to regard it as a sign of confidence instead of being the dangerous technique that it is.


Late and hard braking - leaving little (if any) brakes in reserve.
Going straight from power-on to hard braking can reduce your safety margin to the point of non-existence - just because you got round that corner without incident doesn't mean it was done safely.
And coming to an abrupt lurching stop is not appreciated by the traffic behind you either!


Braking earlier, with more control, and with braking power held in reserve.
This is a much safer and professional approach to braking.
Practice this technique every time you use your brakes in normal (not emergency) conditions, it will give you a much bigger safety margin in your day-to-day driving.

(Note: these graphs do not use data from actual measurements, they are for illustration purposes only)


Start to slow your vehicle by releasing the accelerator and transferring to the brake pedal - this uses the engine braking effect for initial slowing, allowing a smooth transition when the brakes take over.

Take up the brake pedal slack - this switches your brake lights on, giving timely warning to traffic behind.
You need to "feel" the pedal pressure and be alert to the car's reaction.


Press the brake pedal further, continue to feel the car's reaction so that you'll know if the pedal pressure you are using is appropriate.

As you approach your stopping point (target) or the point where you plan to resume a constant speed, continue to feel the car's reaction to your braking effort, making adjustments where necessary.

If coming to a complete stop, plan to stop short of your target (see stage 3).


As you get close to your target you should have slowed enough to allow steady decrease in braking effort, bringing the vehicle to a smooth stop without a sudden lurch as the vehicle weight is flung forward.

Braking in this fashion gives you plenty of braking power in reserve, e.g. you may need it when that car in front stops suddenly.
It is usually necessary to apply additional pedal pressure after stopping to ensure the vehicle is properly held, especially with automatic transmissions.

Drivers don't tend to feel the roughness of poor handling as much as passengers do, so if your passenger feels for an invisible brake pedal or hangs onto something as you slow down, you may need to re-think your braking strategy!

Strive for smooth braking where each stage flows on to the next - it's professional and safe, and your passengers will appreciate the low-stress ride.
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