Brake checking - on the Interstate

Have you ever had someone “brake check” you on the highway?

I was somewhere in NC several years ago on a 1000mile road trip in my loaded, under-powered 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan.

I was going up a somewhat steep on ramp and was accelerating as best as I could and would have been at at least 55 by the time I topped the ramp.

Meanwhile, behind me came a young girl maybe around 20 in a small car flashing her lights and blowing her horn (as if I could go any faster). Once I noticed her I tried to move to the Right so she could get around me but the ramp was very narrow with rocky shoulders so it wasn’t easy to get around.

Near the top of the ramp I was doing about 50 and she blasts around me with the anger of hell-fire. I though that was that but about 1/4 mile down the highway when I was doing 65 she slows to get right in front of me then slams on her brakes.

I stab my brakes as hard as I can but the weight of the vehicle makes it slower to stop and I damn near hit her, barely swerving just before impact. Truthfully, I could have been empty and I would have had trouble stopping in time. She takes off. Another 1/2 mile ahead, out of nowhere, there she is again right in front of me and repeats the brake checking routine. Again I frantically try to stop and again I swerve to avoid hitting her coming to a dead stop while traffic zooms past my vehicle at 70 mph plus…including big rigs.

She does this a third time and I get off the interstate and dial 911.

My feeling is that what she did put my life (and the lives of others) in imminent danger because if a big rig or even another vehicle had rear ended me there most likely would have been fatalities.
This woman was insane to do this.

Is this type of thing much different than someone attacking you with a deadly weapon?
The way she sped ahead and disappeared then suddenly appeared right in front of me meant she deliberately maneuvered using other vehicles as concealment as to get directly in front of me and slam her brakes on.

I really feared for my life because I knew that any second a truck could plow right through my vehicle on the interstate at full speed. And getting back up to speed took longer than usual due to the heavy load. Yes, I was afraid. People are crazy out there. Be careful and expect madness.

What (if any) “rights” do you have to defend your life in these circumstances?
How would you handle this situation?

1 Like

Yes, it has happened to me a couple of times. But I have fast reactions and the event wasn’t even close to an impact.

There have been cases where the brake checker caused a death or serious harm and gone to prison as a result so that is a defense.

As far as your situation went, if you could not stop in time, the best thing you can do is hit the brake-checker square in the rear end. The strongest parts of both your cars is the front and rear so don’t worry about pounding her. She has a large crush zone, you have a crush zone and airbags. When you hit her, her foot will come off the brake and reduce the relative speeds. This is all survivable at 70 mph. Think of this action as “self-defense”.

Do not swerve to avoid her!! You might hit a car in the lane next to you or lose control and roll your car or hit something solid at the roadside. These can have very bad outcomes for you and would completely eliminate the brake-checker from police discussions since they will just drive away. That is the outcome they want so make sure they become involved! You will be able to discuss this with the police later.

You can protect your interests in this type of accident with a dashcam. It will show the brake-check pretty clearly. There are apps for your phone to do this as well. You just need a suction cup phone mount to aim the phone’s camera properly.


Her car is a deadly weapon.

Break checking usually happens when someone is tailgating. The person in fron wants to teach the tailgater a lesson they will never forget and brakes quickly. This causes the tailgater to try to avoid an accident.

PSA: I bake checked someone behind me at about 65 mph, about 45 years ago. It seemed to me that he was a car length or two back and I tapped the brakes. He swerved to the left to avoid me and almost went down an embankment onto another highway at a bridge. That’s the last time I do something like that. A dead person doesn’t learn a lesson for long. Now I pull out of the way slowly and let the person go on their way. If they want to play strange games I’ll slow even more and they tire of it quickly.


My father taught me to turn on my lights when someone was tail gating. That way your rear lights go on and maybe they get the message, but you aren’t actually braking.

And an Interstate highway at 65 mph is no place to defend your rights. You have your hands full just coping with what’s there. We have had many, many freeway shooting incidents here in the past couple of years and that’s just plain stupid, reckless and completely unforgiveable. If someone started doing to me what you have reported here, dangerous brake checking, I’d get off the road at the next exit and wait a bit, maybe at a gas station.


When the backup light switch (inaccessible w/o a LOT of labor) went bad on my POS '74 Volvo, my mechanic installed a toggle switch for me. When someone is tailgating you, activating the backup lights will cause them to give you more distance. Just don’t ask me how I know that. :smirk:


I would handle the situation by attempting to slow down to the best of my ability, but as others have already said, do not attempt to swerve to get around this person. If someone is going to try to cause an accident, I want to hit their vehicle, not some other innocent person’s vehicle instead.


Off subject but for the rude drivers that tailgate I saw a bumper stiker that said the closer you get the slower I go.


There used to be a freeway entrance ramp that was short and entered onto a very busy freeway. You couldn’t see the traffic coming at you very well, so lots of people used to stop at the beginning of the ramp to wait for an opening.

I was the next one in line behind someone who was very timid. She started and stopped 3 times until she was near the end of the ramp. Obviously she had no space in which to accelerate.

I gave her 3 more times before I decided, I would take the next opening. If she decided to go, I would follow her. If not, I would pull around her.

She decided not to go.

About 2 miles down the road I hear honking next to me and it’s her, shaking her fist at me. She pulls past me and changes lanes to be in front of me. I wondered if she would try to brake check me so I looked at the lane she just exited and it was clear.

As soon as her brake lights came on, I moved over and floored it. I took the next exit and used surface streets the rest of the way.


Brake checking is against the law, but it is hard to prove. Tailgating is also against the law but I personally am not bothered by tailgaters. If I HAVE to stop suddenly, then if they hit me, it is their fault, but I am not going to do something that can cause an accident just to teach someone a lesson. They will get that lesson from someone else. Besides, if they do hit me, the speed differential is not that great.

There are insurance fraudsters who will pull immediately in front of you and slam on the brakes. They always have another car right behind them to keep you from shifting lanes and who also become “witnesses”. It is also amazing just how quickly their lawyer shows up. If someone pulls immediately in front of me, I go on the brakes before they do.

I haven’t had this happen to me yet but I did see this attempted on another driver once. Four people in the car and one in the back seat was acting as a lookout. As soon as a car in the other lane started around them, the fraudsters changed lanes right in front and hit the brakes. The other driver was quicker though. I stayed behind these guys for a while because I intended to be a witness against them. I guess they figured that out and got off the freeway at the next exit.


Yeah I had that happen on a lonely road in northern minnesota. I think I was close to the reservation. Three teenagers in a Honda or something. Pass me slow down, pass me slow down, rinse and repeat. I was on duty so didn’t have my shot gun with me. On my final pass I floored it for a few miles and left them in the dust with my riviera. Out of town plates and dealer sticker too so they knew I had cash.

I had a young girl run a stop sign on me too once. I stopped for her and she gave me the salute as she zoomed by. People make mistakes but usually have a little better attitude when they do.

Oh yeah I remember one other time on a curvy back road. A guy in an old Chrysler was going 45 50 so I was following a little close waiting for the chance to go around him. Then all of a sudden his tires were screeching and his car pulling to one side as he dead stopped in the middle of the road. As usual though my car was under control but I guess he took a few miles off his. Don’t actually remember if I went around him or just followed him for the five miles to the freeway. I figured he was half nuts and wouldn’t have wanted to be hid dog when he got home.

Did I mention the guy jumping on the hood of the car in front of me because her lights were too bright? Or the guys having a fist fight on an entrance ramp? Or or. Maybe more will come to mind. I did report the guy on the hood to the sheriff. The girl was scared silly. I would have done something if it got any worse.


I thought passing you then slowing down was bad, brake check is scary!

1 Like

One of 1st things I taught my kids was to never tailgate someone with better brakes then you have (always had older cars) and they asked how do you know, I said you don’t so DON"T tailgate…
I also taught them to be very aware of other drivers and if you see a vehicle being crazy then keep a look out for them…

Oh yeah, never swerve, the cute squirrel is not worth your life!!! And hitting a deer does less damage then rolling your vehicle or hitting a brick mailbox or an Oak tree… little human children are an exception to the rule of course…

I drive fast a lot but I have never brake checked anyone (slowing way down is not brake checking), not even friends just messing with them…

I also don’t tailgate, if you are going really slow and I have no way to safely pass you, then I will ease back so I can watch for a chance to pass then I accelerate to get a running start and go around them and they normally don’t see much of me again unless caught in traffic again… lol

But in the event you are able to tailgate me and don’t stop doing it and I have nowhere to pass to get away from you and no way you can pass me (meaning you are just being a prick), I will slow way down and when you try to pass I will speed back up, that normally gets the point across… Of course I have had undercover units baiting me also by doing that… (ask me how I know lol) Telling them they are just upset cause you beat them doesn’t go over very well either… Yes my city used to run a ton of unmarked units, still do, but not as diversified now…
I live in a very curvy and hilly part of the country…

1 Like

Can a human being be fast enough to visually check the lane he/she is about to “swerve” into in the mirrors in that split second after the car ahead hits their brakes at 60+ ?

Maybe your 6th sense tells you that something might happen so you’re actually on full alert keeping an eye on traffic behind BEFORE the brake check actually occurs?

I rode motorcycles for 50 years and I will say that if you’ve safely ridden motorcycle for a long time you learn to be far more acutely aware of your surroundings and how to survive split second mishaps like brake checking etc. If you don’t you don’t live to get old.

I would say after 50 years riding motorcycles you develop the equivalent of a black belt in collision avoidance and spontaneous reaction to the unforseen. Kind of. :+1:

If you ride or ever did for long you know what I’m talking about.

Well that’s why you try to keep track of the cars around you in case you have to make a quick move, but usually have a second or two for a quick look. Best driving film I ever saw was in basic trading. Emphasized keeping a free space all around you. Front, back, and both sides. Hard in traffic but still always keep it in mind.

Not related probably but I noticed in the paper, a guy drove his semi off the Chesapeake bay bridge. The one with the tunnel not the other one. Still investigating but wonder if someone brake checked him ? What a way to go.

Yes, I have very fast reflexes and I don’t panic when something happens… That being said, NO I don’t have Spidey-Sense or anything like that, but I am very aware of my surroundings and when I am driving fast I am even more aware to the point of knowing where the vehicles are around me and by watching I can judge there speed… Kind of like some people can walk into a room and remember everyone’s name, I have a hard time remembering names even knowing you for years sometimes, but I have a knack for remembering what vehicles are around me… Hard to explain, you either remember or you don’t… lol
BTW: I am the worst person to try to carry on a conversation with while I am driving fast cause I am paying attention to what is around me, not what someone is saying to me…

But I know if someone is slowing down in traffic and slowly trying to get in front of me for whatever reason… And I am willing to bet that if someone has already brake checked (or tried to) me and spead off and then slowed down trying to do it again, I will be ready and waiting to see what they are going to do… And yes I have taken the wifey and 3 kids loaded down going to the Great Smokey Mountains in a 1999 Grand Caravan with a 3.3L… And after we were there I would go enjoy the tight cures pushing the van to it’s limits by my self or with anyone wanting to go have a little fun…

So in short, being on full alert and keeping an eye on traffic is 100% the key, and that is what I taught my kids…

1 Like

No. I’ve already slowed down significantly trying to force the idiot to pass.

It’s far more dangerous for the car in front that would be hit if you don’t slow down in time. If you hit their back corner it will likely spin them around sideways. If it’s a truck or SUV you can under ride them and it will lift their rear wheels up and they’ll roll over as their front shoots of to the left or right. It’s a crazy thing for them to do.

The real risk to you is for them to make you at fault in the accident. If you don’t care about that, then just safely slow down if you are able or just hit them.

It’s an unsafe lane change and their fault. Since it is intentional I think it is also assault with a deadly weapon (meaning an assult where avoiding a fatality cannot be guaranteed). More so for them than you actually.

The lesson is just as valuable at slower speeds where someone isn’t going to die. It’s a valuable for them.

I went from 30 MPH down to 25 MPH once in front of a tail gater. It must have been really scary for them.

Unsafe lane changes are. Cutting in front of someone and braking is an unsafe lane change. Slowing down in front of a tail gater is a different matter entirely.

If you get hit you’re the one going off the road and rolling over at highways speed. Okay so it wasn’t your fault but …

It hardly takes any speed differential to send your vehicle sideways off the road at highway speed. 10 MPH plenty of speed to make this happen if they hit you in a rear corner.

I talked to an old timer once who was riding with someone who slamed on the brakes in front of someone to get money. Probably happened in the 70s or 80s. It may have worked, but their car did roll over in the process. They could have easily been dead.

2 kinds of riders, those who have been down and those who will go down,


My daughter and her friend drove from Tn to Cali a few years ago and had some idiot (or bad person trying to rape or robe them) rear end them while they were doing 70 mph (while in Cali late at night), the truck rammed them and then rammed them again shoving the entire back end (trunk area) almost to the back seat, totaling the Fusion Hybrid and they didn’t wreck or spin out or die, they both had really sore necks and backs but didn’t wreck or loose control in any way…
A big part of that is how you react in situations, if you panic you are more out to jerk the wheel and wreck… AGAIN, two hits from a truck while they were doing 70 mph putting the back bumper close to the back seat, so it WAS a very HARD hit (meaning the driver of the truck was going way over 70 mph to do that much damage in 2 hits)… The difference is in the driver… They also drove the vehicle back to Tn with a bunch of bungy cords holding the trunk lid down and bumper from dragging the ground…
I seen many times where the pit maneuver didn’t spin out the driver, if you know how to react then you can correct the vehicle before it gets sideways… And yes there is always exceptions to ever rule…

So NO, getting rear ended by a tailgater does not automatically mean that you will spin out and roll over, unless you panic and do something stupid…

1 Like

Tailgating is only one or two car lengths, that wont even build up to 10 mph. I actually have never been hit by a tailgater, but I have been rear-ended on the freeway, but the car that hit me was well behind me. Because a car in front of me got cut off and that driver hit the brakes hard, so did the car in front of me and so did I. The car behind me was a 100 yards or so behind, but had just come out of a doctors office and had a procedure done and was not supposed to be driving because of the medications, she didn’t put on her brakes in time to stop.

Does it have ESC? If sold in the US market since 2012 it will have Electronic Stability Control. This will prevent the car that is hit from behing from spinning out and losing control is most cases. A few luxury cars prior to 2012 had it also.

Also the got hit in the middle. If the corner had gotten hit it would likely have pushed in the edge of the flimsy truck bumper, smashed all the headlights, crumpled the fender, and the front truck tire could have even ridden up on the car which would really make things messy for the truck.

ESC will react to this! The police have actually been informed to expect cars to behave differently due to this.

ESC is what ABS always should have been. I think ABS without ESC is actually more dangerous in some situations.

Better to go by following time, such as half a second. Half a second of full braking is around 10 to 15 MPH.