What is the Left Foot Braking Method?

To understand what the Left Foot Braking Method is do the following:

1Find a good quality bed and lie down on it. You may use pillows to simulate a typical car seat and headrest.

2Note how secure you are in the bed as ALL parts of your body are equally supported. It would take a large earthquake to knock you out of bed and you are not even belted in.

3Note how much freedom your feet have. The feet could remain in this position for hours at a time but at a seconds notice the balls of the feet could easily be pushed forward to either initiate a GO action with the right foot or a STOP action with the left foot.

4Have someone place a broom stick parallel to the balls of your feet about one inch away.

5Have another person with a stop watch measure, on their command, how long it takes to move the ball of the left foot until it touches the broom handle. You can get more sophisticated measuring devices but the result will be the same which is 1/4 of a second. Now attempt to move the right foot over to where the left foot should be or where you think the brake pedal should be! You can use the "lift the right foot method" or "heal toe", etc but the result will be the same which is 1 second.

6The result is that if the car was travelling forward at a typical highway speed of 88 feet per second, you will have lost 3/4 of second of reaction time or 66 feet if you attempted to brake with your right foot rather than the Left Foot Braking Method. That is a lot of pedestrians, cyclists and cars that you would NOT hit!

7If the car was moving in reverse in a typical parking lot, the pedestrian standing behind the car is even in more danger. This is because right foot braking is not only slower but as previously explained, subject to Unintended Acceleration Pedal Error (UAPE).


How is the Left Foot Braking Method applied to a car equipped with an automatic transmission?

The Left Foot Braking Method must first of all deal with the anthropometrics of seating. Simply put the driver must be able to comfortably sit for long periods of time but at a moment's notice be able to stop the vehicle in a safe distance.

1For purposes of this explanation we will assume fair weather summer conditions. Make one complete circuit around the car for tire check purposes, clean the lens on the back up camera as you go by, and arrive at the driver's door.

2Face the driver's door, unlock and open the door. This procedure assumes the driver's seat has a memory and is positioned for this specific driver with the back rest at 120 degrees from the horizontal and the seat itself is as far back as possible. (If not manual seat adjustments would be made).

3Now turn around 180 degrees so that your shoulders are now pointing in a direction parallel to the direction of the car and your butt is close to the large V that has been created by having the seat back at 120 degrees.

4Sit down in the V but keep your feet on the ground.

5Stabilize your body by holding on to the steering wheel. Lift your feet up and bang them together to remove debris from your feet. This may not seem to be important in the summer but is critical in winter. We suspect thousands of UAPE incidents have a direct relationship to icy car floors.

6With your feet now suspended in the air, swing your body around so that you are now facing the steering wheel and place your feet on the floor.

7You should now be aware that your butt is buried deeply in the V. If it is not, shift backwards as far as possible. Do not be concerned at this point because you do not have sufficient back support. Note how far back your feet are from the brake and gas pedals.

8Raise the back of the driver's seat to a comfortable position. Note how secure your body feels in the driver's seat and you don't even have your seat belt on.

9The driver's seat is now adjusted so that the heel of the left foot, which is responsible for the STOP mode, rests comfortably on the floor, sharing a portion of the weight of the left leg. The balance of weight of the left leg is supported by the driver's seat. The ball of the left foot must be in both a neutral and comfortable position close to but not touching the brake pedal.

10At this point it may be necessary to make slight adjustments to the back of the driver's seat so the hands can be comfortably placed on the steering wheel, roughly at 8 and 4 o'clock positions.

11The heel of the right foot which is responsible for the GO mode should now also be resting comfortably on the floor supported in the same fashion as the left leg.

12It may not always be possible to achieve the exact desired positioning of both legs due to some automotive manufactures insistence that the brake pedal and gas pedal should be at different distances from the floor (They are getting better). If this occurs, the priority must always be given to the left leg which must be able to be in a comfortable position for many hours but at a moment's notice be able to initiate the STOP mode. The position of the right leg may be compromised from a response and comfort point of view as GO is a lower priority than STOP. Discomfort with the right leg (e.g. toe vs full foot monitoring or accelerating) can be eliminated by using cruise control which reduces the amount of instrument panel monitoring and ELIMINATES SPEEDING TICKETS. You should be on cruise control almost all of the time (school zones, construction zone, street and highway speeds etc). It should become automatic. Pretend you are a Google car if that helps!

At this point we will assume the driver has completed all other standard driving procedures and is ready to drive (seat belt, mirrors, cruise control on etc.) but as we move to the next section of the website we would remind the readers that the LFBM would also require all graduates to be able to:

ABe able to do a complete blind fold cockpit check. This simply means you must be able to make adjustments to controls such as the air conditioning without looking at them!

BBe able to listen to, but not look at your GPS (like it was your mother in law giving you directions. She knows exactly where she is going and you don't have to make eye contact!)

CAgree to not text or talk on your cell phone even if you have hands free.

DBetter still, don't talk at all. Despite what car manufactures would like you to believe driving is not a social thing - it is very serious business.

EWhen braking, do not cancel the cruise control with the cruise cancelation button, but instead apply the appropriate pressure to the brake pedal. This does two things. First it tells the driver behind you that you are staring the braking process and secondly it gives you the satisfaction that you have properly functioning brakes. If you have a sport gear shift lever, you may go through the gears to slow down and save the brakes but remember to shift the lever back to drive and return your right hand to the steering wheel before making the required two handed turns etc.


Myths or criticisms of the Left Foot Braking Method:

1There are drivers who claim they have witnessed old slow drivers with their brake lights on and therefore they must be drivers braking with their left foot and prematurely wearing out their brakes. No scientific records exist to back up this assertion and it is more likely that a lazy right foot was the culprit. It should also be pointed out that a properly trained driver would be following the requirements of the Left Foot Braking Method and therefore the cruise control would cancel the GO mode, thereby alerting the driver.

2It has been said that the relationship between the brain and the left leg is not as good as with the right leg. Therefore the left leg does not have the sensitivity required for smooth braking. It is of interest to note that the manoeuver that in the past required the most sensitivity was the engagement of the clutch, which was done with the left foot.

3It has also been said that with the left foot braking, the left foot is only used 35% of the time vs. 85% of the time for the right foot and therefore the left foot does not have the sensitivity for smooth braking. Unfortunately in most cities with horrendous stop and go traffic this probably is not a legitimate criticism or myth.

4Not being able to use the driver's left foot to stabilize one's body in a panic braking situation has been also stated as a disadvantage of the Left Foot Braking Method. No records exist of any tests proving this criticism but most car seat belts are comparable to aircraft pilot seat belts and aircraft manoeuvers are certainly more violent.

5At the time of the sudden unintended acceleration incidents, it was suspected that some drivers had depressed the gas pedal and the brake pedal at the same time. If this action was the cause of the unintended acceleration, then the Left Foot Braking Method might be a possible disadvantage. However, the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Administration has mandated that all passenger vehicles have controls that mandate the input to the brake pedal must override the input to the gas pedal so this is no longer an issue.

6Drivers that utilize the Left Foot Braking Method may be more susceptible to rear end collisions because of the shorter panic stopping distances. This may be true, however the same may be said for cars with automatic braking systems and future cars of the Google design.


References:

  1. Human Dimension & interior Space by Julius Panero and Martin Zelnik.
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Report
  3. U. S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Administration, 49 CFR, Part 571 (Docket # NHTSA-2012-0038), RIN 2127-AK18.
  4. Ross Bentley Driving Unlimited, 2002, Tip # 21.