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SKIING... Whistler Blackcomb Snow School


Left Foot Braking-yes or no?

Many motorists are in the habit of using the left foot on the brake pedal, in the belief that this will confer a performance advantage. Quite a few of these folks reveal what they are doing to alert observers, because the brake lights are always on or flicker in erratic patterns. This could cause premature brake wear.

I use left foot braking in certain racing cars under specific circumstances, but right foot brake in my road car. For one thing, I'm not trying to make the chassis perform tricks, at the limit of adhesion, in my day-to-day driving. The other major point is that in a racing or rally car the driver is strapped in with a five- or six-point belt, so is pretty much locked into position. This permits a bit of latitude with the feet, since no matter how hard the car is braked the driver's backside will remain in position. That is not the case with even the best road cars.

Here is the problem. Okay, you've decided left foot braking is the way to go. You are braking hard, whether for a tight corner or to avoid an obstacle. This varies according to vehicle, but you will begin to slide forward in the seat. First, it will make it harder to control brake pressure accurately. Beyond that, you are going to have to hang on to something for support, and that will be the steering wheel. Left-foot brakers invariably push back from the wheel in an emergency stop, since it's the only way to keep the upper body in place.

The problem created is that it is now much more difficult to steer with any precision. If the emergency manoeuvre, or even tight corner, require accurate steering, your ability to do so will be compromised.

Most production roadgoing vehicles these days have at least a vestigious dead pedal, or foot rest, off to the left side. That is where the foot should be parked, with the left leg muscles tightened just enough to add support.

There are a few exceptions to the right-foot braking rule, but this mainly involves low speed off-road stuff, like rock crawling, or getting an automatic gearbox equipped car rolling in low traction conditions. Barring that sort of thing, the mantra we use in advanced driver training, barring physical infirmities that might prevent this, is brace, not brake, with the left foot. If you want to do otherwise, consider something like the CG LOCK, a very clever device that permits you to lock the lap belt in such a way as to have some of the effect of a racing harness.


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