Faulty Brakes and Motor Vehicle Accidents: What Every Driver Should Know
- March 3, 2017
- Category: Law
The National Safety Council reported in 2015 that 38,300 people were killed and an estimated 4.4 million were injured on roads in the United States annually. The year 2015 saw the largest percentage increase of road fatalities compared to the last 50 years. The number of fatalities increased by 8 percent over accident rates in 2014.
Drivers have a legal and moral responsibility to maintain their vehicles in a way that guards the safety of the public, passengers, and other cars on the road. We will discuss the signs that drivers need to look for to help identify brake problems in advance, and how drivers can practice defensive skills to avoid a collision if brakes on the vehicle fail.
How to Tell if Your Brakes Need Replacement
When it comes to replacing the brakes on any truck or car, it is generally close to $1,000 if all four brakes require replacement. Because of the expense of installing new brakes, many drivers try to extend the life of their brakes beyond manufacturers recommendations, and typically beyond what is safe.
There are a number of signs that offer cues to a driver about the condition of his or her motor vehicle brakes, and drivers should be ready to repair or replace when they feel or hear any of the following signs to avoid a faulty brakes accident or collision:
1. Vibrating brake pedal (inside the car). This indicates uneven wear on the brake pad, and mechanics call this condition “pulsating brakes” when pads or discs have become worn by friction and heat. The uneven wear can be machine-tooled to get more life out of the brakes, but frequently the best option is to replace them.
2. Screeching brakes sound like a high-pitched noise that is hard to miss when the brake pedal is pushed down by the driver. Brake pads typically have a metal strip built into them to create the sound, which is an alert to drivers that it is time to replace the pads. This sign can often be misinterpreted as other joints within the car that may require lubrication.
3. Brakes pull to one side. When a driver is braking, if the vehicle pulls strongly to the left or to the right, it indicates that the brake pad is worn. The side that the car or truck pulls to is the side of the vehicle that has the least worn brake pads, and that is functioning normally.
4. The vehicle shudders when braking. If your vehicle lurches forward or shutters when the brake pedal is deployed, it is an indication of worn brake pads on more than one brake and wheel. New brake pads can compress against the disk of the brake to slow the vehicle down. Worn brake pads may inconsistently grip the disk, creating partial braking, while allowing the vehicle to lurch forward.
A good rule of thumb is to have both your tire tread and your brakes inspected whenever you get an oil change. Mechanics can quickly point out any hazards to brakes, which combine both poor quality tire tread and worn brake pads, and they can also estimate the maximum safe mileage that drivers should operate the vehicle before replacement.
All drivers should be aware that faulty brakes can contribute to legal complications, in the event of an accident where the driver can be found negligent for not maintaining the vehicle is a safe manner. Passing safety inspections annually is one way that state and federal lawmakers hold vehicle owners accountable for maintenance; however, if faulty brakes are reported by a mechanic (or noted on a customer file), that can be used against the driver by the insurance company.
Owner negligence can also limit the amount of settlement that an insured driver receives as part of compensation for his or her injuries if the insurer can demonstrate that the driver was predominantly at fault for the accident.
Defensive Driving: What to do When Brakes Fail on the Road
Based on tips offered by DefensiveDriving.com, there are several methods that a driver can use to successfully and safely maneuver and slow a vehicle after brake failure. Remember that most new vehicles have anti-lock brakes, so the action of “pumping the brakes” is ineffective, as anti-lock brakes are designed to be deployed by pressing consistently down on the pedal, without lifting the foot. Newer luxury vehicles may also have A.I. assisted automated braking systems to provide the driver with additional braking support if the vehicle is in a skid or is approaching an object or other vehicle at a high speed.
If your brakes fail while you are driving your car, you can do four things to restore control of your vehicle and navigate to the curb safely:
Shift the vehicle into lower gear. If it is in drive, shift it slowly down to second (2) drive, and then to first (1) gear. Do not attempt to shift directly to 1st gear without slowing the vehicle first. Remember to turn your hazards on to let other drivers know you are dealing with a technical failure in the vehicle.
If your vehicle is older and has traditional, non-ABS brakes, try gently pumping the brakes three to four times to build up fluid pressure in the brake lines.
If the first two methods do not successfully slow the vehicle, the parking (emergency) brake can be used to start to slow down the speed of the car or truck.
If the emergency brake snaps or does not work, simply drive your car onto a gravel curb, or if on the freeway, drive along the shoulder until the vehicle stops. Some safety experts also recommend gently using freeway metal barriers or concrete to slow the vehicle down by steering gently into the barrier to use friction to slow the car to a complete stop.
While the cost of replacing brakes is high, it is far more expensive to replace or repair a vehicle because of a motor vehicle collision. Ensure that you have your brakes inspected twice annually, and follow the advice of your mechanics regarding replacement when warranted.
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