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Nearly 20 million motorists are using their brakes in potentially dangerous, damaging and frequently infuriating ways, according to new research.

The study shows that well over half of British motorists (59%) aren’t using their car”s brakes as advised in the Highway Code – and as a result putting the safety of others, as well as the health of their own vehicles, at risk. Indeed, 1.7 million drivers admit to having caused an accident through their own braking errors, while 4.3 million say they have been in an accident as a result of someone else”s mistake when braking.

Research reveals that many motorists are using a braking technique which is no longer considered appropriate, and that others approach braking in a way which has never been part of good driver training. The study showed that today”s motorists fall into six types of braking behavior:

  • ”Engineers” – over 11 million motorists use their gears to slow down – using the brakes as little as possible. This approach is more popular with older drivers as it used to be taught in driving schools, however as braking systems have improved, it is now considered outmoded. This is because worn brake pads and discs are much easier and cheaper to replace than engine, clutch and gearbox components.
  • ”Hoverers” – more than 3 million drivers leave their foot hovering over the brake pedal and dab the brakes when needed.
  • ”Pedal pumpers” – one in 12 drivers (2.7 million) admit to slowing down by repeatedly hitting the brakes and then easing off. This style is seen most often among drivers under 24.
  • ”Tailgate Charlies” – Half a million drivers, the majority of whom are aged 25-34, say they brake hard only when they get close to the traffic ahead in case it speeds up.
  • ”Stompers” – 800,000 motorists prefer to brake hard at first, and then ease off as they get closer to the traffic in front.
  • ”Foot Controllers” – incredibly, fewer than half of road users – 41% (13.8 million) – use the technique which gives them maximum control of their car – applying the brakes early and gently at first, then increasing the pressure as they get closer to traffic.

A third of drivers (33%) are ”Engineers”, letting their engine and gearbox take the strain by shifting to a lower gear instead of braking first. Although using lower gears is an effective way to control speed, putting the pressure on them to do most of the work has the potential to cause unnecessary wear on expensive components.

”Engineering” seems to be particularly common among male motorists, with 37% of men admitting to it, compared to just 29% of women. Indeed, the older generations are obviously not ”up to speed” with modern braking advice, with 40% of over 55”s classified as an ”Engineer” compared to 23% of those under 35.

Only around 40% of drivers do slow down their cars in the most efficient way; by applying the brakes gently at first and then increasing the pressure the closer they get to traffic.

The research shows that there are a huge variety of braking techniques on our roads and some of them are less than ideal. Whether it”s through lack of concentration, bad habits or desperately trying to save time on their journeys, people are trying all sorts of braking tactics.

Braking too early, too late, too suddenly or even not at all can create real problems on the roads. Poor or unusual braking not only makes driving stressful for other motorists but is responsible for a lot of accidents. The latest official statistics show that accidents caused by sudden braking account for the death or serious injury of almost one thousand people a year.

This is all before you think of the damage bad braking can do to a car. If they are used too harshly, brake pads can wear out quicker than expected, putting drivers at risk of serious brake failure if they haven”t had them regularly checked.

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