Does Slamming on Your Brakes Waste Gas?

Optimizing fuel economy should be a priority for all road users: It makes environmental as well as economic good sense to realize the best gas mileage your vehicle is capable of. Except in emergency situations, slamming on your brakes is evidence either of poor attention or habituated bad driving practices; both waste gas.

  1. Aggressive Driving

    • The U.S. Department of Energy states categorically that “Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town.” Slamming on your brakes, unless reacting to an emergency, is a strong indication that you are driving over-aggressively.

      Aggressive driving is bad for you and other road users -- it invariably raises stress levels and makes everybody tense and adversarial -- as well as for your vehicle. The habit of slamming on brakes is commonly accompanied by full-throttle acceleration, which is the primary non-mechanical cause of wasted gas. Further, loss of momentum translates directly into an increased fuel burn to regain the original speed; if this is unnecessary, it should be avoided.

    Cruise Control

    • Harsh braking that plunges a cruising car below its cruise control threshold -- typically around 25 miles per hour -- requires manual acceleration to get back above that speed. Manual control is seldom as fuel-efficient as cruise control technology.

    Vehicle Condition

    • Another factor that influences gas mileage, albeit indirectly, is vehicle condition. This applies to the braking system as much as to the condition of the engine oil and filters. Slamming on the brakes is not good for them; the increased demands on the mechanical components and the systems that actuate them is incremental. Making a habit of harsh braking increases the wear rate and decreases the vehicle’s performance, thus decreasing fuel efficiency.

    Distracted Driving

    • The experts at “Decisive Magazine” note that driving free of distractions -- such as the use of electronic devices -- increases attention to the road, so “You will be better able to anticipate traffic conditions and slow down or accelerate gradually instead of slamming on your brakes or gas.” Gradual braking and acceleration uses less gas than does slamming on your brakes and gently returning to speed.

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