I am occasionally asked about using the left foot for braking instead of the right foot. The usual justification given for this is that the brakes may be applied more quickly because the left foot is ready while the right foot is busy with the accelerator pedal. While there are different schools of thought on whether this is appropriate for highway driving it may not be a good idea for the average driver.
An important job for your left foot and the leg attached to it is to press against the raised portion on the left side of the driver’s foot well. This action forces the driver into the seat and anchors the body leaving the arms free to steer with during lateral acceleration and heavy braking. Staying in complete control means not hanging on to the steering wheel in order to keep your body in position.
If you get lazy and ride the brake with your left foot enough to light the brake lights will confuse the driver behind you. Are you stopping or not? Confusion like this will lead to an increased chance of being hit from behind and contributes to excessive brake wear and poor fuel economy.
In the event of a collision, the resulting pressure on both the brake and the accelerator will reduce the effectiveness of the brakes at a time when they are needed.
Finally, check with your driving examiner. Left foot braking during a road test may not be acceptable in all circumstances.
Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.