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Left foot braking in automatics


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Honest John, who provides motoring advice in the Telegraph has an ongoing campaign to educate all drivers of cars with automatic gearboxes to brake with the left, accelerate with the right. His logic is that "all these accidents" suffered by drivers in automatic cars "losing control" would be averted.

The typical scenario he is tackling appears to be a low-speed manoeuvre close to a potential collision hazard. His argument is that by left-foot braking, you can control the lunge associated with a prod of the accelerator. I can agree with this, although I feel that if you drive the car sympathetically you learn to anticipate the transition from crawl to drive with a typical auto box.

His argument is that such low-speed accidents are caused by right-foot confusion between brake and accelerator. He maintains that the hapless driver jabs the accelerator, thinking it is the brake, and when the car continues to lunge forwards/backwards, they simply press the "brake" harder and away it goes. The fundamental problem with this logic is that there is no difference between the brake and accelerator pedal layouts on automatic or manual cars, so why would the driver ever mix them up, and hence why should they use their feet for different pedals just because they happen to be sat in an automatic? And what of the confusion as they move between autos and manuals?

I think the saving grace in a manual is that if you did this at parking type speeds then you'd just stall it - clutch and throttle control would be all over the place - in theory you'd hit the brake as clutch if you were hitting the accelerator as brake. An automatic removes the ability to recover control by stalling, usually. So could the problem be not so much the type of car, but the type of driver?

I suspect it comes down to the demographic of the drivers who suffer from this "car ploughs through crowded forecourt", "car parks in neighbour's front room", etc. scenario. Is there something there that he's afraid to touch on? Maybe, just maybe, they're all generally past their prime, and whilst it's a difficult decision to make, perhaps they should no longer be driving...?

I find it entertaining to read his letters page in Telegraph Motoring on a Saturday; invariably a "but why do you think left foot braking is better" letter is posted - to Honest John's credit - but his reasons are getting more and more obscure. Apparently it saves vital metres in an emergency stop from high speed. Apparently racing drivers do it instinctively. Apparently... Apparently... :lol:

Does anyone else think he's painting himself into a corner, or conversely that he's one lone voice of reason in a world gone right-foot mad?

Edited by Dan

Dan

"He who dies with the most toys wins..."

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Not saying it cant be learnt to good effect by good drivers Graham... just that its not likely to make the sort of drivers that forget which pedal to press any safer than they are now. Before you le

Have thought it odd since he started the campaign. I dont see how years of using just the right foot for braking and accellerator (in both manual and automatics) is going to be bettered by people experimenting with left foot braking. Its actually pretty hard to brake subtley with the left foot - most people will stand the car on its the nose the first few times - and I would say will probably press the wrong pedal a few times too. Also in a "confused" state that people must be in to accelerate when they mean to brake, I dont see why he thinks they will use their left foot at all even if it is covering the brake after years of conditioning using the right foot.

Of course any who have driven gokarts will have done loads of left foot braking but I dont find that translates to the road very well. Sooo for me, I'll stick with using the right foot - and accept the operator incompetence label next time I plough through a bus queue instead of stopping. :rolleyes:

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The problem IMO is when you mix the 2. For many years my daily drive was an auto (Sydney traffic) After many years I am now re-educating myself to left foot braking in a manual. But the danger is when mixing both manual and auto is that one day you find yourself stabbing the brake pedal to change gear ! oops the cars an auto, you just stabbed the brake pedal and stopped dead for no apparent reason, and the guy behind has run into the back of you.

I take size 6 shoes, these are not big feet, but when I try left foot braking, and clutch-less gear-changes I make sure I have my "Small" driving shoes on, too easy to get your feet tangled up in small spaces.

So I maybe of the old school, but if you're mixing the 2 stick with convention. Taking driving advice from a motoring journalist is akin to believing Jeremy Clarkson can drive a car!

Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it, depends on what you put into it. (Tom Leahrer)

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Have driven autos for 45 years and have always left foot braked. Most days drive both manual and auto and have no problem switching.My son has tried several times to left foot brake without sucess and i think it depends on what you feel comfortable with as this is likely to be the safest.

When it comes to slow speed manoeuvres there does seem to be a problem with autos when the car is on full lock it can suddenly surge forward causing people to possibly panic.Left foot braking makes it easier to control an auto in these cicumstances.

The only time left foot braking caught me out was in an early citroen auto which had a normal gearbox but no clutch so was easy to brake hard when trying to change gear

hindsight: the science that is never wrong

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Driven autos for 8 years, never ever had an issue, never done left foot braking, never ever felt the need either - just an excuse for crap driving.

Remember no one can be shit driver - its the car at fault.

Cus you see next there'll be poeple resting their foot on the brake and smoke coming from the wheels complaining "you never told us so..."

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I do not normally drive automatic, so the technique I use is to fold back my left leg & drive one footed - never then try to dip the clutch.

Wonder how many Lotus drivers have experienced the lack of retardation when the edge of a fat right braking foot starts to dip the throttle

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Its actually pretty hard to brake subtley with the left foot

spot on Mike. If you get used to it/are used to it can be quite normal but it feels a bit like throughing a ball with your wrong arm to start with - not natural, unsure of distance it will travel ect ect

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk - that will teach us to keep mouth shut!

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Luckily my brain is capable of learning new things and it found it easy to left foot brake when I first started doing it around 25 years ago.

Honestly, naysayers, it's really not an issue - if anything it's easier as each foot only has one task. Left to stop, right to go. Even a small child can grasp that especially if your write L & R on their wellies. The left foot braking technique can be used as a psuedo clutch when low speed manoeuvring and you can introduce a touch of power braking for shuffling up inclines or into tight spots.

Take your lead diving boots off and try learning something new.

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....try learning something new.

Not saying it cant be learnt to good effect by good drivers Graham... just that its not likely to make the sort of drivers that forget which pedal to press any safer than they are now. Before you learned the technique, I doubt you ever pressed the accelerator hard instead of the brake and ploughed into a wall or line of people before you realised what was happening - did you?

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Loving Lionel and Eleanor......missing Charlie and Sonny

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Not saying it cant be learnt to good effect by good drivers Graham... just that its not likely to make the sort of drivers that forget which pedal to press any safer than they are now.

Spot on Mike. I've actually been trying left foot braking in my current auto, as Ian says it's hard to be proportionate at first. I've driven a large number of go karts and left foot braking is instinctive there. Similarly instinctive on my fork lift truck.

My point isn't that I refuse to learn new techniques, but that the solution doesn't match the problem. I don't think it's that drivers fail to adapt to using their feet, it's this "ploughing through the bus queue" scenario where I think it's overall driver competence and not vehicle or driving style that is to blame. Hence I think he's tip-toeing around the issue.

Edited by Dan

Dan

"He who dies with the most toys wins..."

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I think the issue is one of demographic... what age group prefer autos (In the UK) and who has the accidents?

My mums car was badly damaged when an old fella in an auto got brake and accel mixed up and plowed across a car park into the next car and shoved that hard into my mums car.

Wrote off his car, the first one he hit and got a big bill for repairing my mums. I'm all for staying mobile but I hope I have the courage to admit when I should stop driving!

He was pretty much blind and was more concerned about loosing his license due to poor eyesight than the fact he could easily have killed someone!

1 foot per pedal does make sense if you only drive autos, otherwise it doesn't.

I taught myself to left foot brake in the Elise but it's not hard to do as the pedal requires more effort anyway, on a modern I mostly find the brakes are on/off for a while until I get the hang of them...

I use the 'keep the left foot out the way' tactic in the girlfriends smart (Semi-auto) as clutch foot is good at jamming pedals into the carpet...!

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Think is G I would but I'd probably bin the car.

I was coming home from a particularly long day at work once at 3am and fogot I was in an auto, went to change gear and had a very nasty surprise LOL (totally my own fault, knackered and wasnt thinking about driving)

I was like WTF IS GOING ON !!!!

Some people can do it - great, but I dont find the need to do it, like I dont see the need to start learnign how to write with my left hand...

If you drive the car properly you shouldnt need to do it either - not saying it's wrong at all just if poeple have problems with driving an auto with just 1 foot learning how to left foot brake is probably going to not solve the issue.

TBH If I need such fine control I use the hand brake :D

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My wife always left-foot brakes in her car as she has limited movement in her right ankle due to an operation she had as a teenager. She encourage me to left-foot brake when I had my Volvo which was an automatic. Didn't take long to get progressive control and it can definitely smooth out that transition from braking to power in cornering or just in general driving. Also helped for some smartish getaways from the lights. :)

I now drive an automatic Mitsubishi and rarely left-foot brake as the pedal layout does not encourage it. In the States, the majority of cars have automatic gearboxes so the demographic is different. I am sure you all know about the runaway Toyotas where the accelerator pedals were supposed to be getting caught on the floor mats or just sticking and the cars would speed off down the road, sometimes with fatal results. Well I'm sure that in every case where the car went out of control, the driver was not pressing the brake. If they are wokring corrrectly, the brakes will always overpower the engine. However, I have read that new VWs are set up so the engine cuts out when the brake is pressed. This takes away a lot of the benefits of left-foot braking for me purely to help VW's case should they ever get sued for "unintended acceleration."

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Well I've never had an accident through it, but I have suffered the scenario of pressing the accelerator in an auto when going for the brake on more than one occasion so I can see exactly what he is on about.

In my case I think it's being caused by when I drive an auto I tend to relax the left leg more and keep it more at 90 degrees in a normal sitting position, rather than extended covering a clutch pedal as you would in a manual. That affects the reference points and muscle memory in the right leg. At speed it tends not to be an issue as you focus more. At low speed when perhaps you area little switched off, it's very easy to panic when you jab the wrong pedal, and I've def experienced the panic reaction of just jab the pedal harder, even though its the wrong one.

As to the validity of his campaign? Much as I agree with what he says, there's a whole load of other worse and more significant issues ahead of this one IMHO that require eradicating.

Regards

Mat

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I drive a Jaguar with an auto box as my daily driver. As some of you know I also play large church and cathedral organs which require a lot of dexterity with feet (using heels and toes and crossing your feet occassionaly). So you would think I would find it easy to left foot brake in the Jag....I just can't do it comfortably no matter how hard I try!

I too enjoy Honest John in the Telegraph. There is one campaign he is spot on about though and that is the excessive use of speed humps in some areas and the potential damage to tyres and suspension components that they cause.

Though this be madness yet there is method in it ( Polonius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet)

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Not read the article, but does it mention that left foot braking in a turbo car without a vac pump (e.g. my S3) is a very bad idea - you run the real risk of running out of servo vacuum if you are overlapping your braking with your right foot still on the accelerator... (as it can only charge the servo on overrun with the throttles fully closed).

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