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My Boyfriend drives me to distraction

To say he drives like a “little old lady” is an insult to the fairer sex. But it is not my intent to beat up my boyfriend who I love or women drivers. The question which drives me to distraction has to do with his habit of braking with his left foot.

I constantly complain that his tendency to stab at the brake pedal, throwing me and everything else in the car into the wind screen is disconcerting and reduces my confidence in his ability to drive safely. I complain that it makes me feel like he is not paying attention to his driving and that good, proper technique would be to bring the vehicle to a stop more gradually using the right foot and that he should be able to respond to other vehicles without stabbing the petal. He says that he was taught to drive this way at a younger age. I say he was taught incorrectly

This seems to be more my argument than his but he agreed to accept the knowledge of the Car Talk guys and forum in this regard. HELP ME!!

Am I being too much of a nag or is his braking technique in need of adjustment?

You are confusing two issues!

One issue is left-foot braking, which is a legitimate technique that is taught by some instructors, and which is favored by some folks. When done properly, it does not cause passengers to be “thrown into the windscreen”.
Of course, this does raise another question, namely–Why are you not properly belted in?

If you are wearing a correctly functioning/ correctly adjusted shoulder harness/seat belt, you CANNOT be thrown into the windscreen from the force of braking.

The other issue is his driving ability. If he is hitting the brake pedal very hard–no matter which foot he is using–then he is either tailgating other drivers, or is inattentive, or has very poor braking technique, or…has some other driving problem.

So–rather than focusing on his use of the left foot, you should focus on his overall driving ability.
I suggest that you take some friends along for a drive on a few occasions, in order to get their opinion of his driving ability. If the majority of you concur that he drives poorly, then you should speak to him together, regarding this issue.

If it is just you criticizing his driving, he may claim that you are crazy, and, of course, this possibility also exists!
If several friends tell him that he is just a bad driver, and if YOU offer to pay for his driving lessons, then hopefully he will take heed of reality and will go back to driving school.

Presumably your car is old enough not to have seat belts so we don’t need to attack you for not being belted in. If miscellaneous items are being flung about on normal stops, there is a problem.

The problem is this: your boyfriend is not very good at using the brakes. Normal road, normal car, normal driver, no need for left foot braking. He was indeed taught wrong.

If you can do right foot braking better than your boyfriend, you can also do left foot breaking better, if you want to try it as an experiment.

To reiterate, the problem is this: your boyfriend is not very good at using the brakes.

Just because there are two schools of thought doesn’t mean they are both right.

“Presumably your car is old enough not to have seat belts so we don’t need to attack you for not being belted in.”

You presume INCORRECTLY.

The car in question is apparently a Dodge Neon.
The Neon was introduced to the marketplace in 1995.
Shoulder harnesses became standard equipment, circa 1971.
Lap belts became standard equipment, circa 1964.
Ergo, the car has shoulder harnesses/seat belts, and WE DO need to at least question this woman about her apparent failure to use the safety equipment that exists in the car.

I don’t know about you, but when someone fails to exercise good judgment in terms of utilizing her shoulder harness/seat belt, I am not sure how seriously we should take her “safety concerns”.

I viewed the OP’s comment with a weaker literal meaning. Perhaps she means she is getting thrown towards thhe windshield and is simply overstating this one negative side of the boyfriends driving.

I mentioned my Dad does the left foot braking thing (started about 15 years ago)in a previous post. Dad taught me right foot only so it is a mystery where this left foot thing came from. Besides a minimal amount of applying both the brake and gas at the same time it gets pretty hairy in the drive through when the path is a bit difficult to navigate

“throwing me and everything else in the car into the wind screen is disconcerting”

Some of you regulars on this forum take things so literally I wonder if you’re real people or AI programs.

You’ve probably scared off the OP by browbeating her about seat belt use.

Hmm. Where are you getting that? I don’t see it in the OP’s post, and until advised otherwise, I will assume that the Dodge Neon in her tags is her car, not his. If it’s hers, she can simply take over driving duties. Thank you for the history lesson, though.

Cartalk “senior” members do occasionally display a tendency to jump down the throat of the OP of the day. I would think the beeping sound from not fastening the harness would make that unnecessary.

I posted just now before seeing this. Good to see I’m not totally alone.

First, I must agree with the others in stating that some on this forum take things way to literally. When you say you are thrown into the windscreen I assume you are wearing seat belts but used this choice of words to illustrate a point or to use a word picture.

Second, left foot braking is not the cause of poor braking techniques. It is safe and at times better than right foot braking.

Third, the boyfriend would do this with his right foot also because he has poor braking/driving habits. It will only change when he makes a concerted effort to change. Change comes from within, not from the mouth.

Forth, I hope you read this and that it helps since there is a good chance you have been driven away by those who assumed you are not wearing belts.

I too am going to disregard the reference to left foot braking. I have relatives who live in highly congested areas and seem to develop this, jump on the brake then gas driving style. You’ll have to ask yourself if this habit is worth the loss of a friend or, you start taking your car, buying the gas and doing the driving yourself. When those I ride with offer “complaints” on my driving, it’s time to pull over switch places and take a nap; and keep the gas credit card in my wallet.
If your friend is indeed exhibiting poor habits, setting a good example may be helpful rather than nagging which you seem to be concerned with.

Your boyfriend needs some corrective driving lessons; if he can’t be corrected, have a test done for possible epileptic tendencies.

Any driving instructor I know would fail him in an instant for driving the way he does. I have been braking with my left foot since 1965, and find the technique very useful in congested traffic. It also allows for SMOOTHER braking.

In addition to the possibility of epilepsy, he should be checked for Diabetic Neuropathy. When someone is suffering from DN, diminished sensitivity in the sole of the foot can lead to an inability to judge how hard one is hitting the brake pedal.

Left foot braking is just a bad idea. instructors teaching it Does Not make it ok

He simply doesnt know how to drive. You need to “reprogram” him. Left foot braking is unsafe and hard on equipment

It seems to me you don’t feel safe when your boyfriend drives. If that is the case, and you respect yourself, and you value your life, you should either take over the driving or refuse to get in the car with him. After a few minutes of that kind of driving, I would have asked him to pull over and let me out.

Any type of Neuropathy could do that, not just Diabetic Neuropathy. Maybe a nerve conduction test is in order.

Good point, Whitey.

Nonsense. The reason driving instructors teach it for those who only drive automatics is because it sharply reduces response time. There is only one valid reason to not drive left foot, and this is people who sometimes drive manuals, because your brain gets trained for left foot braking and when you have to change, you can get confused. It takes several weeks of driving carefully to get your brain trained. Otherwise, not driving left foot braking is simply ridiculous. It’s like we still use qwertyuiop keyboards, because the inventor in the 19th Century wanted to keep his first machine from jamming.

I have been driving left footed since I got my first automatic in 1973. I have driven hundreds of thousands of miles without causing a wreck. Yet, I have been told I have driven badly since 1973, right on this page. I have big, clumsy feet, the big is not a problem, the clumsy is. Yet, with left foot braking, I have driven around 250,000 miles all over the US and Mexico since I retired in 1997. The driving instructors are correct – for those who drive only automatics.

Amen on left foot braking, Docnick. I only started in 1973, because I had manuals before that.

Those who criticize it are actually not using the best driving practices, which means do what works for your circumstances.

I remember an article years ago in RD. A woman was shown by her mother when she put the Thanksgiving turkey in the roaster, to cut off part of the tail. She was curious, and all her mother could tell her was her own mother taught her to do that. When the young woman asked her old grandma, it turned out in her younger years, she only had a small roaster, so had to cut off the tail to fit it in. This got passed on to another generation by blind memorization, not for any real reason. So has the right foot braking been passed on thoughtlessly by memorization and tradition in an era and nation where most cars are automatics.

I’d like to watch you critics drive in Mexico City, or even worse, La Paz, just outside Mexico City. Only very fast young men can handle that traffic in a manual, with all the clutch work and brakes, with that foot going back and forth like the bobbin in a sewing machine.

Let me say it again. You are making this up. This is pure nonsense. Give it up. Pure fiction.