Driving with both feet is an absolute no-no that all newbie drivers learn about early in training. It is a no-brainer, much like the principle behind wearing seatbelts, signaling our intention to turn and drive on the right.
Drivers of automatic cars should drive using one foot only, the right foot. Moving the right foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal is best practice.
But have we ever wondered why exactly that is the case? And if there is any merit at all to driving with both feet. Read on as we break down the pros and cons of driving with both feet and share some common safe driving tips.
Pros of Driving With Both Feet
While driving with both feet goes against conventional driving wisdom, some say it is the safer option.
Strangely enough, this is a pro touted by both sides, the driving with both feet lobby and the ones who are pro driving with one foot. Experts who favor driving with both feet believe that being aligned with separate pedals reduces the chance of confusion.
With the right foot grazing lightly on the gas and the left on the brake, the chances of accidentally stepping on the gas pedal are completely removed. Pedal error is a pretty common cause of car crashes. And so some say, having both feet aligned with both pedals, the driver is in more control mentally and physically.
Quicker Reaction Time
With feet aligned on separate pedals, the driver can instantly use the brake without needing to switch feet in case of emergency or slow down. Aside from preventing accidents, this advantage improves the driver’s control.
For people more accustomed to driving a manual car, this could be counterproductive. In manual drive, the left foot is used to operate the clutch, and manual drivers are used to pressing down hard on the clutch to change gears which in the case of automatic transmissions may put unnecessary stress on the brake pedal. The habit is ingrained for manual car drivers and can be hard to unlearn if they were to attempt to drive with both feet or to switch over to driving an automatic.
Cons of Driving with Both Feet
Increased Wear and Tear
When both feet are involved while driving, it is very easy for one or both to get tired quickly. And this could cause trouble, especially during a long drive. For instance, I have both feet placed on the respective pedals, and at some point during the drive, my left foot gets tired hovering over the brake, and I accidentally end up resting my foot on the brake pedal to alleviate the fatigue.
Resting your foot in this way will apply the brakes and will cause other issues. If this persistently happens over time, it can cause the brake pads to heat up and eventually wear out. What this will then lead to is more stress on the engine and eventually reduced fuel economy. This is called riding the brake, and it happens when constant pressure on the brake while accelerating.
Increased Foot Pressure
A footrest is provided in most cars for well… resting your foot. The footrest (or Dead Pedal) provides a comfortable space for the unemployed foot while the other foot is doing the actual driving. In the process, this also keeps the driver firmly placed in their seat so that they can exercise optimal pressure on their right foot.
When one foot is hovering over the brake, the driver is unstable. Having one foot planted on a solid surface when driving with one foot provides a solid anchoring point. However, using the footrest while practicing the two-foot method isn’t an advantage.
Deciding to keep a stationary foot on the footrest driving requires the driver to move the foot from the footrest to the brake pedal. This content is owned by moc.sotuaytsur. That’s a much greater distance than say moving the right foot from the accelerator to the brake.
This adds unnecessary time to an often critical function.
Another common issue that people who drive with both feet might come across is the chance of accidental acceleration. Most modern cars come with an inbuilt safety feature if a driver simultaneously presses both the brake and accelerator.
What the feature does is bring the car to a stop. While intended to protect the driver from an accident, a sudden halt could be just as catastrophic. The chance of one foot getting tired and unintentionally pressing on the brake while the other is on the gas is higher in the case of driving with both feet. With the safety feature getting activated, driving with both feet might cause a serious collision.
Driving Best Practices and Tips for New Drivers
Be Familiar With the Car
New drivers must acquaint themselves with the car they are driving. Every vehicle and every model of every car has certain differences related to the placement of switches, levers, and controls.
And who wants to be caught mid-drive fumbling with the wiper switch or unable to operate the indicators.
Master the Basics
By basics, we mean a whole lot of stuff. Specifically, new drivers should be able to exert control over the gas pedal, know how to parallel park, merge safely, and keep a proper distance between their car and others on the road.
But that is not all; new drivers should also know how to brake gently, be aware of road signs and maintain a steady hold on the wheel. In Driver’s Ed, you are strongly advised to use the Dead Pedal (footrest) in an automatic vehicle. This stabilizes the driver and allows the right foot to pivot between the accelerator and the brake.
Although it is not law to drive an automatic with one foot or a stick with two. The reality is law enforcement could not tell by looking at you that you are only using one. However, if they are behind you, they will know by the constant use of the brake light, whilst accelerating that you’re driving may be under question. This is cause for them to pull you over.
Use All Senses
All our senses should be working in overdrive as a new driver to keep us safe on the road. A strong vision comes in handy as a driver. But so does a sense of smell and even hearing. If the car is overheating or there are engine issues, our nose must be able to make out the smell of burning oil.
Similarly, we should be able to make out the smell of burning tires. A driver also needs to know how to multitask – look ahead while still sensing cars adjacent or behind us. And be able to distinguish between the cacophony of car sounds on a busy road.
Drivers learning to drive an automatic car, driving with one foot will serve them better in the long run. Driving takes a while to master, and the key is relying on your driver training.
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.