Having your breaks fail can be one of the most terrifying experiences that anyone can encounter on the road, but it doesn’t have to lead to disaster. There are many ways that you can reduce your chances of getting into an accident and getting hurt. It’s important to be aware of what to do in the event of an emergency so that you will be able to react quickly and in the appropriate way.

The steps you take depend on the environment. The following steps involve an ordinary traffic situation. You need to avoid panicking and remain calm. Panicking may result in a maneuver that will injure yourself or other drivers.

The first thing you should do is begin shifting down. This should be done slowly. You should avoid putting the car into neutral, or attempting to turn off the car. Both of these things can make the situation worse. Shutting off the car will make it more difficult to steer it, and putting the car into neutral will make it more difficult to stop.

After you’ve shifted down as far as is prudent, you should engage the emergency brake. If you have good emergency brakes, or were going slowly, this may enable you to stop the car. However, if you were going quickly it’s very likely that all the emergency brake will do is reduce your speed. This is still important, as the slower you’re going the safer you will be.

Now that you are reducing your speed safely you should be trying to get off the road. You should slowly move across the lanes towards the right to get on the shoulder. Remember during this time to continue signalling and checking your blind spots as necessary, as forgetting these things at a critical moment can lead to a wreck.

While you are going through these emergency steps, if you have the time and the presence of mind, it is a good idea to engage your hazards right away. This will tell other drivers that they need to avoid your vehicle, and keep both them and you safe.

The above steps were for an ordinary traffic situation, but there are other situations as well. Usually when your brakes have failed you become aware of it when you are trying to brake–such as at an intersection, a hill, slowing down on the freeway, or bumper-to-bumper traffic. Your environment does affect what you decide to do in the case of brake failure.

If your brakes have failed when going through an intersection, it is usually best to cross the intersection before attempting to stop or slow down if it is safe to do so. Once you cross the intersection, you should move towards the shoulder and attempt to stop the car. Otherwise you risk getting hit by cars crossing the other way.

If your brakes have failed on a hill, you will probably not be able to stop the car until you have gotten to the base of the hill, so you should concentrate on driving smoothly while shifting down. Once you’ve gotten to the bottom of the hill you should attempt the safety brake.

If you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic you should immediately engage the safety brake and turn on your hazards.  You won’t need to downshift because you’ll already be going slowly, and trying to maneuver out of the traffic without brakes may lead to an accident.

Finally, if you’re on the freeway when your brakes fail it may be dangerous to suddenly reduce your speed if there are cars behind you. You should put your hazards on and immediately begin moving cautiously towards the shoulder before you attempt to slow down. If, after you check, there are no cars directly behind you, you can start shifting down.

This piece was written by Arnold Raven, a freelance writer who concentrates on automobile gadgetry, auto repair and upkeep, driving tips and other related matters. Those concerned about Brake Repair issues should view the resources available from a quality outfit.