In something as simple as braking, there is a smart way and there is also a less efficient way of performing this straight forward driving task.
Many motorists tend to wait until the last second to get on the brakes for red lights, stop signs or a traffic slowdown. There is a danger to this method as well as waste.
Braking late and aggressively is a sign of haste on the driver’s part. Many feel that by staying at a higher speed as long as possible they can make up time or save time. The fact is, if you are coming to a stop, waiting until the last second to brake aggressively will not save time. That red light will not change quicker because the motorist approached it in a hurry.
The negative side of this late braking tactic is multi-fold.
Drivers who wait until the very last second to brake hard stand a greater chance of being rear ended by a following vehicle. If the driver behind is distracted or expecting the vehicle in front to continue on, the result could be a rear-end collision. When a driver slows sooner and more gently, it tends to get the attention of the following vehicles. This forces the vehicles behind to also brake more gently reducing the chance of being hit from behind.
When braking gradually for a traffic light drivers get an added benefit to the gentle slowing method. The red light they were slowing for may just turn back to green before they arrive at it. This can result in not having to accelerate from a dead stop saving on fuel costs.
When approaching a stop sign, motorists who use the late braking method can fool drivers on the through street into thinking the vehicle approaching the stop sign may not in fact stop. Even though all motorists should not assume any driver will actually stop at a red light or stop sign, this rush to the stop sign can deceive the approaching driver and cause them to veer slightly away from the stopping vehicle.
It also goes without saying that aggressive late braking induces more wear on your brake components. Braking hard from 80 km/h to 0 km/h will use up noticeably more brake pad and rotor material than slowing gently from 80 km/h to around 60 km/h and then braking gently to 0 km/h. Heavy braking will also wear out tires faster by making them work harder.
Nothing is gained by the aggressive late braking technique unless you are at the race track. It costs in wear and tear and reduced safety. Very little time, if any, is saved and it only increases the risk and stress.
The best method of braking is employing good vision technique by looking farther up the road, processing driving information and planning gentle, smooth braking to reduce wear, save fuel and increase safety.
Leave the late braking for race car drivers. They don’t mind replacing brake pads and rotors quite often and it can save them a few tenths of a second — which actually matters at the race track.