Brake testing is a term often used in motor racing, but it can be applied to driving on the road, too. It’s where the driver in front intentionally brakes early, or harder than usual in order to force a driver behind to either run into the back of them or have to take evasive action to avoid a crash. As nose-to-tail accidents are usually judged to be the fault of the driver that crashes into the back of the driver in front, this is not good for the following driver.
Drivers sometimes use it as a form of road rage to indicate to a following driver that they are driving too close, or that they did something ‘wrong’.
If a driver in front of you has to brake heavily for a genuine reason, e.g. a child runs out in front of them, it’s not brake testing.
Brake testing example
This driver swerves in front of the lorry and then slams on the brakes. The truck has a longer stopping distance and, because the SUV driver reduced the following distance for the truck, the driver wouldn’t have had much time to react.
This kind of ‘accident’ is very common in some countries where insurance fraud is rife. Many lorries carry dash cameras to prevent this kind of thing. If you’re interested in getting a dash cam, click here.
How to avoid being brake tested
Firstly, while this doesn’t excuse another driver’s actions, it is often your driving that is the cause of someone else’s road rage. If you drive inconsiderately (too fast, too slow, no indication, tailgating, using the overtaking lane when you’re not overtaking, etc), then eventually you are likely to come across someone who has had a bad day and things can escalate quickly. So, avoid driving habits that are likely to annoy other people.
Second, remember to keep left when you are not overtaking, and don’t unduly hold up the flow of traffic.
Third, if someone does cut in front of you, immediately increase your following distance to give yourself more of a buffer.
If the driver is particularly angry at you, it’s best if you get off the road at a safe place, e.g. a petrol station and wait for them to go. Try to avoid a confrontation.
Should you use brake testing on tailgaters?
It’s really tempting to brake test people who are following too closely, but this is not a good idea. If someone is following too closely, are you partly to blame? If you are travelling at 30mph in a 50mph zone on a clear day with no reason to be holding traffic up, you need to assess whether you are competent enough to be driving as this simply disrespects other people’s time.
If you are driving at a reasonable speed and someone is tailgating you, make it easier for them to pass you. You can keep left, don’t speed up on straight sections of road, and indicate to the left to signal to the driver behind that you are willing for them to overtake you.
While another driver is following closely to you, you will need to increase your buffer to the vehicle in front of you. This serves two purposes: it means you have longer to stop if the vehicle in front of you brakes, and you also give more room for an overtaking vehicle to slot in ahead of you.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.