Brakelights and Downshifting

brakes

#1

Do the brake lights go on when down shifting? How does the driver behind you know that your car is slowing down, especially if they are following very close behind the car?


#2

The simple answer is NO, the brake lights do not “go on” and NO, the person tailgating you will likely not realize that you slowed down–until he hits you because he was tailgating.

As a result, if you have someone tailgating you, you should pull over if it is safe to do so. If it is not safe to pull off the road, you should gradually slow down with light applications of the brake, and hopefully the jerk behind you will either pass you or back off.


#3

no, I’m not going to adjust how I slow down because of a jerk behind me. I may put on my blinkers because he/she is too close.


#4

I’m not going to adjust how I slow down because of a jerk behind me.

Interesting point of view. You like being hit from behind? BTW if the cop figures out what happened, you likely would be cited.

I don’t have a problem with down shifting, I do it myself, but I always check to make sure there is no one close behind me. That is my responsibility, as it is yours.


#5

If they are too close, I’ll put on my blinkers.


#6

Braking by downshifting causes unnecessary wear on your clutch components and is not generally recommended. It is cheaper in the long run to just use your brakes. I won’t comment on these other replies and their desire to be hit from behind.


#7

First, the answer is that downshifting doesn’t engage the brake lights. However, there is more to consider than that. Downshifting won’t slow your car down fast enough to create a hazard. Still, you could downshift and use the brakes at the same time. Downshifting for normal braking is a bad idea. It will cause premature wear of the clutch, which is a lot more expensive to replace than brake pads. Now if you are approaching a corner and downshift to second gear for the turn, you would have been downshifting to second gear anyway. So in this case it is a good idea since you won’t be creating any additional clutch wear. If you are approaching a red light, downshifting is a bad idea. So if you will be downshifting anyway, downshift and use the brakes so that your brake lights come on. If you would be downshifting to come to a stop, don’t do it.


#8

BTW if the cop figures out what happened, you likely would be cited.

I don’t know what state you live in…but EVERY state I lived in…the person in the rear MUST be in control of their vehicle at ALL times. If they are driving too close it’s THEIR fault they ran into the car in front of them no matter WHAT they did.


#9

no, I’m not going to adjust how I slow down because of a jerk behind me. I may put on my blinkers because he/she is too close.

I think this reflects a costly attitude. You seem be suggesting that a collision that is someone else’s fault isn’t worth avoiding. Is that what you are saying?

Defensive driving involves an attitude and the development of habits that help you avoid all collisions, not just those that are someone else’s fault. Frequent collisions, regardless of whose fault it is, will lead to problems. These can include, but are not limited to, an increase in insurance premiums, an inability to get certain jobs, and less leverage in legal situations. Let me explain each one if these issues:

  1. INSURANCE PREMIUMS-- While most insurers won’t increase your rates for one or two collisions where the other driver was at fault, repeated collisions, regardless of fault, will reflect poorly on you. So it is prudent to take steps to keep this from happening. Also, there are collisions that are incorrectly deemed “no fault,” which is beyond your control. This will lead to higher insurance premiums. If you are involved in enough collisions that are not your fault, you might even find that you get dropped by your insurance carrier.

  2. EMPLOYMENT-- If you want to get a job where they look at your driving record, like teaching defensive driving, teaching motorcycle safety, or driving professionally, any collisions on your record, regardless of fault, will hurt your chances. In these jobs, you are expected to know how to avoid collisions by reducing risk factors. A history of collisions could be evidence that you don’t know how to neutralize risk factors, and it won’t matter who caused the risk factors.

  3. LEGAL LEVERAGE-- Let’s say you get involved in a road rage incident and, through no fault of your own, the other driver dies. If your state attourney general wants to prosecute you for vehicular manslaughter, you better hope you have a clean driving record. If you have a history of collisions, even if they are not your fault, your lawyer will have an uphill battle.

Defensive driving isn’t defined as an ability to avoid liability for a collision. It is defined as an ability to reduce risk factors in an effort to avoid all collisions, regardless of fault, which is a much smarter effective goal. If you ever wondered why some people pay lower insurance rates than most others, it is because their driving record is squeaky clean.


#10

The simple answer to your question is; the brake lights are turned on with a switch that is activated when pressure is applied to the brake pedal. If you press the brake pedal slightly the lights should turn on and drivers following too close should BACK OFF, if they are wise at least. Some drivers today won’t do that though.


#11

Usually there is a “the last person who can avoid the accident” clause. In any case I would suggest that the driver behind could successfully argue that they were not too close for a car that would have otherwise had working brake lights.


#12

// Interesting point of view. You like being hit from behind? BTW if the cop figures out what happened, you likely would be cited. //

Nope, if you rear-end someone it’s always your fault regardless of what the person in front of you does.


#13

The car isn’t necessarily slowing down because the driver is downshifting. Usually I downshift after having to step on the brakes because the car in front of me is turning or if the car has lost too much of it’s own momentum in which case a higher RPM (lower gear) is necessary to accelerate/cruise. Why do you downshift to slow down anyway? Brakes are cheaper than clutches.


#14

…if you rear-end someone it’s always your fault regardless of what the person in front of you does.

Always??? So if someone pulls out in front me and slams his brakes, it is my fault? I don’t think so! What about if he is accelerating in reverse?

I don’t think you really thought that one through, Jeff.


#15

Always??? So if someone pulls out in front me and slams his brakes, it is my fault? I don’t think so! What about if he is accelerating in reverse?

Technically that person wasn’t in front of you. They were in another lane then pulled in front of you.

And YES you may be liable unless you have a witness or it’s on video. If you do then no you’re NOT liable.


#16

To the “brakes are cheaper than clutches” folks let me point out that downshifting properly done has very little adverse impact on clutch life…as does upshifting properly done. But I admit that it really is a technique that few master. Even after teaching two kids to drive on my old pickup I still got 295,000 out of the clutch, and if I’d kept it rather than giving it to my (at the time) teenaged daughter it probably would have gotten much more. It’s the only clutch I’ve ever worn out.

However, I agree with those that point out that it’d the responsibility of the driver downshifting to be sure that he/she doesn’t do it in a situation where it might cause a risk…even if the law holds the car in back liable. The best accident is the one that never happens.


#17

I’m just saying that stepping on the gas to increase engine rpm’s to be in concert with the lower gear (higher gear rpm) doesn’t seem to have the same braking affect as simply putting it in the lower gear and releasing the clutch like you would during an up-shift. That’s why it makes more sense to just step on the brakes if you need to slow down, that way the driver behind you knows it anyway so there’s no question of safety because of the lack of brake lights. Does that make sense ?


#18

Nope, if you rear-end someone it’s always your fault regardless of what the person in front of you does.

Some years ago I was going though a divorce. I was in my now ex’s lawyer’s office waiting for him to arrive. I was watching out the window when I say a garbage truck back into a Mercedes. I commented that her boss might have a customer out front. She looked out the door and exclaimed that it was her boss in the Mercedes. Yea the car (truck in this case) as certainly cited.


#19

Then use the brakes. There isn’t always a jerk when you need one.


#20

I have to wonder, how many people have had an accident because they were afraid to apply their brakes sufficiently, for something ahead of them, because of the tailgater behind them? I’m sure the number is not zero.