Tips, Tricks & Trends

Many Race Car Drivers Break This Basic Rule of Driving

Race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his car.

Race car drivers may be speed demons on the track, but they also follow the rules of the road like anyone else. However, they don’t necessarily follow every rule. One thing that many race car drivers do that the average person is taught against doing is braking with their left foot. Here’s a look at why they do that and what it could do for the average driver.

Why braking with your left foot is wrong

A lot of people are trained to drive manual transmissions, but most cars nowadays are automatic transmissions. This is an important reason why it feels wrong for many drivers to start braking with their left foot.

With a manual transmission, a driver will feel and use three pedals with their feet; a gas pedal, a brake pedal, and a clutch pedal. However, with an automatic transmission, there is no clutch pedal. This means drivers will only have to work with a gas and a brake pedal. 

People who’ve been taught to drive a manual will know to use their left foot for the clutch and to use their right foot for accelerating and braking. However, with the automatic transmission revolution in full swing, many drivers end up using their right foot for gas and braking and their left foot just hangs around doing nothing. 

Braking with your right foot made more sense with manual transmissions as drivers had more pedals to work with. But without a clutch pedal, this line of thinking becomes obsolete. There’s no reason why you can’t brake with your left foot if you’re driving with an automatic. 

Why this works for race car drivers

Race car drivers realized that because their left foot is simply closer to the brake pedal than their right foot is, they could brake sooner. The difference in reaction times and braking times isn’t too significant, but when your car’s traveling at those high speeds, it could mean winning a race or not. 

This applies to regular drivers too, especially on highways. If you drive a car around at 70 miles per hour, it isn’t as fast as a Formula 1 car. However, braking half a second faster can still mean the difference between hitting something or not. This could potentially save lives or just save your car from taking damage. 

But, there is a caveat to this. Like Jalopnik mentioned, some race car drivers do well with the traditional right foot braking. It’s all a matter of training and muscle memory. If you’re not trained to brake with your left foot, then you’re not going to get any of the benefits that these race car drivers get from it. 

Should you brake with your left foot?

If you want to brake like a race car driver brakes, then you must practice a lot and unlearn what you’ve learned about braking with your right foot. The problem for many drivers who’ve learned to brake with their right foot is that they’re not used to applying pressure with their left foot.

As a result, like Jalopnik mentioned, the first time you drive while braking with your left foot can feel strange. You’ll probably apply too much pressure to the brakes. This will turn your ride into a shaky and uncomfortable one. You’ll have to practice this style of braking a lot, but if you get used to it, then there’s no reason why you can’t brake like a race car driver.

Like Thrillist mentioned, someone who can brake with their left foot is as safe as someone who brakes with their right foot. It’s all a matter of practice and proficiency. Once you get acquainted with it, then you’ll be a faster and safer driver.