Brake testing is where a driver in front of you deliberately applies the brakes heavily in order to force you to brake, and to risk you running into the back of them, which would technically be your fault. It is often used as a warning that you are following too close, or if the driver is undergoing a road rage incident because (rightly or wrongly) he or she is annoyed at your driving. Brake testing is not where the driver in front of you brakes heavily genuinely.
Brake testing is extremely dangerous. As you’ll see from the video below where a driver of an SUV cuts in front of a truck and brakes heavily. The truck, which is leaving plenty of room (more than two seconds) to the car in front, now doesn’t have enough room to stop as the SUV cut the distance to around a second. The driver continues to brake test (also called a ‘brake check‘), obviously hoping for an insurance claim, but without realising that the truck is recording the entire incident.
How do you avoid being brake tested?
If someone cuts sharply in front of you, increase your following distance as soon as possible. If they are in a car and you are in a car your actual stopping distances are likely to be similar, but the critical factor is the time it takes you to react to the other vehicle braking.
If you suspect that the driver will brake test you because they have indicated they are not pleased with your driving, you need to start looking for escape routes and exits, and bring your speed down. You don’t want to be taking emergency evasive manoeuvres because that increases your risk of a crash.
Should you brake test someone that is following too closely?
You should never brake test someone because it risks an accident, and that could result in injury or death. If you are found guilty there are heavy penalties for dangerous driving. If someone is following you closely there are two options:
- Are you driving considerately? If you are holding up traffic by driving too slowly then you need to pull over to allow people to pass. You are not the police, so your opinion about whether people are driving too fast or not is just your opinion and doesn’t give you the right to stay in the overtaking lane on the motorway if you are not overtaking anything.
- Move to the left so that they can overtake you. If possible either stop safely, slow down a bit if it makes it easier for them to overtake, or use passing bays correctly (i.e. don’t ignore them). Don’t speed up on passing lanes, and don’t drive faster than you are comfortable with. If the driver is driving very close then you may want to brake more gently so that they don’t run into the back of you.