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The problem with driving with two feet

Published August 28, 2012
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Some people seem to drive with two left feet, figuratively. But those who actually drive an automatic with both feet worry me.

Since most newer drivers have never touched a stickshift vehicle, I doubt it has anything to do with a “restless left foot” from transitioning to an automatic. (I’ve driven both and find that rationale to be nonsense.)

From a legal standpoint, using two feet isn’t specifically prohibited. But if you lose control and cause a collision, you could be charged with careless driving or dangerous driving causing bodily harm/death, if applicable.

Police can’t see your feet as you drive anyhow, unless, perhaps, you’re in an open top Jeep with doors removed, but two-footed drivers typically give themselves away by their constantly lit or blinking brake lights as they drive along.

Two-footed driving is, I believe, most often practised by novice drivers who falsely believe they’ve discovered a better, more efficient way to drive than everyone else. In reality, two-footed driving is completely unnecessary because you can just plant your right heel on the floor and pivot between gas and brake, so it really doesn’t save you any effort.

Two-footed driving is extremely dangerous because during emergency maneuvers, the driver may inadvertently step on the wrong pedal, or step on both simultaneously. In a crisis, we automatically do what we’ve been trained to do. If you’ve made it a habit to use your left foot for braking, then that’s what your brain will opt to do when trouble arises – and that mistake can be fatal.

Years ago, I recall a newly-licensed family friend regretfully admitting that she mistakenly stomped on the gas instead of the brake at a red light and then, in a panic, used her left foot (as was her habit) to apply the brake – but without releasing the gas pedal with her right foot. The gas pedal counteracted the braking effort and she seriously injured herself and others in the collision that she caused.

It takes 30 days to make or break a habit and, after she got out of hospital, she broke that dangerous habit for good.

Incidentally, street racers need not write in. I’m aware that stomping both pedals simultaneously while stopped may hold the vehicle in place as the (rear) drive wheels spin and “burn rubber.” Her auto was in motion, at speed, so the application of both pedals at the same time greatly reduced the effectiveness of the brakes and she was unable to stop in time.

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