What Does ‘Covering the Brake’ Mean?

Covering the brake is a technique taught in driver education programs where the driver removes their right foot from the accelerator pedal and holds it over the brake pedal in readiness to slow down or stop quickly.

This is helpful in traffic situations where a sudden stop may be necessary, and it can shorten stopping distances because the driver’s braking foot is already over the brake pedal and ready to react quickly and smoothly. If the right foot is on or over the accelerator pedal, it will take longer to apply the brakes.

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Letting the vehicle coast while covering the brake is recommended in situations such as when vehicles ahead are slowing down; approaching a traffic signal that might soon change to red; driving in areas where cross traffic might be hard to see; and driving along parked cars, where someone could unexpectedly open a door or walk out from between cars.

“Covering,” though, doesn’t mean resting a foot on the brake pedal. That increases brake wear and may annoy or confuse drivers that are following. Instead, the foot should be hovering just above the pedal.

The same rules apply to the clutch pedal on vehicles with manual transmissions: Hover instead of resting the left foot on the pedal and be ready to engage the clutch and smoothly shift gears to slow down or accelerate. Resting the left foot on the clutch pedal increases wear.

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