Home » Some Countries Tell Their Citizens To Apply Handbrakes In Traffic And It’s For A Baffling Reason

Some Countries Tell Their Citizens To Apply Handbrakes In Traffic And It’s For A Baffling Reason

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I think perhaps the biggest thing the internet has done for human society is that is has made everyone in the world into roommates. We’re now in a position where we can know all sorts of absurd details and opinions about people we’ve never met, and be baffled by these opinions from half a world away. Everyone on Earth has the potential to be a weird, rarely seen roommate now, casually dropping strange statements and confusing opinions that make us all wonder, with surprising intensity, just what is the deal with that weirdo? A bit of this magic happened just the other day, when, unbidden, someone on the Internet tweeted angrily about brake lights in a way that puzzled much of the driving world. Let’s talk about this.

Here’s the tweet in question, which has been making the rounds on car twitter and has come to me from a number of sources:

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Now, if you’re like most of us, you’re probably looking at that picture with confusion. What, exactly, is wrong here? People are stopped at a red light. That’s how that’s supposed to work, isn’t it? The guy said something about a “hat-trick” which is sports-talk for three goals or related triumphs, so that must mean the three people stopped there. So why did it take “every bone in [his] body to not put main beams on” to presumably retaliate against those three drivers? What did they do?

Well, here’s their crime: they have their feet on their brake pedals while stopped.

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The reason the tweeter feels this is bad is because they find the glow of the brake lights unpleasant or distracting, it seems. And, okay, I guess some brake lights can be bright, but who doesn’t keep their feet on the brake when stopped at a light? I can’t ever recall thinking of a time I’ve been dazzled by brake lights – they’re not high beams, after all – but I’m sure it’s possible, but at the same time, there are benefits to it, too.

In an automatic, do you really need to be shifting from D to P every time you come to a traffic light? That seems ridiculous, and potentially annoying to other drivers behind you, who would probably rather you actually start moving right when the light turns green instead of waiting for you to shift back into gear, a process that will, assuming the standard PRNDL layout, flash your reverse lights at the people behind you, which is more likely to cause annoyance than the brake lights that indicate you understand how traffic lights work.

In a manual, I guess you could pull your parking brake, but, again, why? You’re stopped. That’s an ideal time to be illuminating the lights that warn people behind you you’re not moving, because you’re not, and you’re in an active traffic lane, so let people know that!

I’m really baffled by this one. If you can’t deal with an occasional bright light, maybe night driving isn’t your thing? Roads at night are positively full of bright lights: the traffic lights themselves, street lights, advertising signage, flashing yellow construction warning lamps, highly energetic fireflies, headlights of oncoming cars, you name it.

This just seems such a strange thing to get worked up about, right? It’s not just me? This is from the UK, so perhaps it’s more of a thing there. In fact, it is mentioned in the UK Highway code:

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“In stationary queues of traffic, drivers should apply the parking brake and, once the following traffic has stopped, take their foot off the footbrake to deactivate the vehicle brake lights. This will minimise glare to road users behind until the traffic moves again.”

Here’s a post from “The Official Highway Code,” which “applies to England, Scotland and Wales”:

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Reactions to that post are mixed:

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Huh. Okay. What’s odd about this is that I’m all but certain this code was written in a pre-LED era where brake lights were feeble 12V (or even 6V) bulbs behind likely grimy red plastic, so the idea of being dazzled by the brake lights of a Ford Cortina or an Riley Elf seems a little far fetched to me, but who knows. These same rules also suggest not using headlights at all on roads with street lighting:

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  • “use headlights at night, except on a road which has lit street lighting. These roads are generally restricted to a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise specified”

So, you know, maybe there’s a greater fear of light-dazzling in the UK than I realized. Like, a pathological fear.

But this Reddit thread implies that Australia and New Zealand have similar things in their drivers’ codes. (I haven’t been able to confirm). It’s all a bit bizarre.

Am I out of line, here? I’ve never driven with anyone who takes their car out of gear and puts it in park or pulls the handbrake at stoplights. Ever. I mean, you usually have no idea how long the light will be? You may just be there like 11 seconds! I’m sure on flat roads I’ve sometimes taken my foot off the brake, but unless I’m feeling really lazy or it’s an absurdly long light, I’ll keep it in gear and the clutch down.

Is the tweeter/UK Highway code right about this? Is everyone I know doing it wrong? Is this man the lone voice of reason in a cruel, red-glowing world? Is this a UK thing? Do any of you agree with this?

Let’s discuss this. I’ll be amazed if there’s a decent number of people for whom this makes sense, but you know, I’m okay with being amazed.

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Gabriel Jones
Gabriel Jones
10 months ago

160 comments and only one other makes the real menace. Cancel your indicator especially if you are in a turn only lane. Turning left? Of course you’re turning left. Me too! I don’t need to be reminded of the fact 3 times a second for the next 45 seconds.

Josh Baker
Josh Baker
11 months ago

Late to this party, and while I have agree that some recent Honda/Acura models have uncomfortably bright, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank @Torch for including a Corrado in his cover graphic. Made my day. Now back to my heckblende research.

Bennett Alston
Bennett Alston
11 months ago

I’ve had many moments stopped at traffic lights, tired or hungover, and irritated as I am blinded by the massive amount of light produced by the LED taillights of the 3 SUVs in front of me. Especially with the distortion of a rainy windshield, it really can be a lot of light. In my manual, I often will set the parking brake if I’m tired and know it’s going to be a long light. As long as you’re paying attention watching for the green, I don’t see a problem encouraging this technique.

On the flip side, I’ve seen automatic drivers who do place the transmission in Park while stopped at lights. The quick flash of the reverse lights when shifting back to Drive has a subtle bonus effect of catching the eye of the driver behind, alerting them that traffic is moving again. I’m kinda on board with this whole thing now that I’m thinking about it!

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
11 months ago

Personally I *want* lots of bright red lights if there are non-moving cars on the road. Anything that helps alert the lady in the SUV who is currently browsing muffin recipes on facebook while keeping the other eye on her three kids having a food fight in the back seats to the fact that she needs to slow down now-ish is going to save lives. Heck, put up air horns 100 meters away from any traffic light that start dooting the second the light turns yellow.

Jeremy
Jeremy
11 months ago

I do find siting behind modern cars in traffic, with bright LED brake lights on, quite irritating as they can be very bright, but that is not the point of this reply – I would like to discuss Mr Torchinsky’s confusion as to what to do at a traffic-light-controlled junction.

Like all well-raised Brits, I normally drive a manual car – But I am temporarily using a Mercedes rental with an automatic transmission, and over the last month or so have been pondering this issue from the opposite point of view…

In a manual, I will stop at a red light and, assuming a longish wait, select neutral and apply the handbrake. I would also rest my right foot on the footbrake until there is a stationary car behind me, then step off the pedal. I was taught that this accomplishes several things – Brake lights on as a warning to approaching cars, but only as long as neccessary, no wear to any driveline components such as would occur if waiting for too long in gear with the clutch pressed, and in the event of a collision the car would not roll away if I was incapacitated, or my feet slipped off the pedals due to the impact.

In the auto I am driving, I have several options, none of which are satisfactory. It seems I am supposed to sit with the footbrake pressed and the box in Drive. You have to actively press the pedal, as the car is actively trying to push forward – and press quite hard if Sport mode is selected! – If you press hard enough, then the Hold feature engages, but you cannot relax, as the slightest brush up against the gas pedal will cause the car to try to pull away, lurching forward before the footbrake is found and pressed again.

The Mercedes also displays mpg while driving, but the display changes to gallons per hour when stopped. The fuel consumption of the engine in Drive pressing against the brake is double that of the engine in Park. The rear brake lights are on whether pressing the footbrake or using Hold.

Alternatively, as a mechanically sympathetic car operator, I select Park to sit at the red light, but then when the lights cycle round to my turn, I have to remember to press the footbrake before selecting Drive to pull away. This seems counter intuitive, when 30 years of muscle memory associates the middle pedal with stopping, not going!

JDE
JDE
11 months ago

UK and by extension it’s penal colony and related island seem to always be a little Bass Ackward.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
11 months ago

Interesting, I have been pulled over and given a ticket for not having my brake lights on at a traffic light with a manual before… I am just so confused now about everything.

Thomas Hutt
Thomas Hutt
11 months ago

Where, I wonder?! Sounds like a veeery low-crime area, if the rozzers have time to nitpick “crimes” like this! Were ya driving a chav-mobile?

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
11 months ago

I’ve seen cars at a stoplight shoved into high-speed cross traffic when rear-ended.

Four tires braking resists this better than two tires braking.

I’m keeping my foot on the brake when stopped, no matter what they person behind me thinks about the brake lights. The Brits are often stupid; this is a good example of that.

Temple Of Toyoda
Temple Of Toyoda
11 months ago

It’s named ‘parking brake’ not ‘stopped in traffic brake’. Manual or automatic, foot on brake, if manual is in neutral and it’s flat release if you desire. In almost any metropolitan area, hailing from western bank of the Hudson here, 1/1000th of a second delay at the green equals deserved honks, lets go people!

JDE
JDE
11 months ago

Oh I am sure somebody in the UK calls it some stupid human appendage name instead of what it is.

Josh Baker
Josh Baker
11 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Late to this party, and while I have agree that some recent Honda/Acura models have uncomfortably bright, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank @Torch for including a Corrado in his cover graphic. Made my day. Now back to my heckblende research.

Autojunkie
Autojunkie
11 months ago

You can’t ask much of a nation that drives on thew wrong side of the road as it is.

Autojunkie
Autojunkie
11 months ago
Reply to  Autojunkie

*the

(an edit button really needs to happen)

Happy Walters
Happy Walters
11 months ago

A thought about brakelight glare at stops: Rain. And mist. On less than ideally clean “windscreens” in countries in which it is almost always rainy and misty.

None of this brakelight stuff makes sense in the US, but it might make more sense in the UK.

Santiago Iglesias
Santiago Iglesias
11 months ago

Jason… David Tracy likes to put his cars into neutral at stoplights. I was baffled by this when he took me for a drive in one of his Cherokees but I didn’t bring it up at the time

W_F?
W_F?
11 months ago

Was it a “grail,” AKA manual? I do that if I know I have time at a light–I’ve been told it saves wear on the clutch.

Vc-10
Vc-10
11 months ago

In a manual car, then yes I would always apply the handbrake if you’re going to be sitting stationary for more than a moment. More comfortable sitting without your foot on the brake too. In a conventional automatic with creep then yeah, feels like it would be more hassle to faff putting it into neutral.

My current car has auto hold, so when you come to a stop push a little harder on the brake pedal and then it’ll hold itself there. Plus I turned off creep (it’s an EV).

The comment about headlights is weird. The language used is kind of confusing. Rule 113 states that you MUST use sidelights from sunset to sunrise, and use headlights on unlit roads. Rule 115 then states that you SHOULD use dipped beam or dim-dip lights in built-up areas.

The number of people I see driving around at night with just sidelights is ridiculous. I don’t understand why anyone would do it (and if they’re coming the other way they get a full beam flash, as long as I won’t be blinding other cars who aren’t being idiots). It’s not so much of a problem on some cars with quite bright sidelights, but a lot of cars built before everything started getting LED running lights have two tiny little 5W bulbs as their sidelights which you can barely see.

The best though are the people who have coded out their DRLs, and then drive around without *any* lights on at night. Fucktards.

I honestly think that cars shouldn’t have light switches. Dipped beam on the entire time, the only switches being to activate high beams and fog lights. People are too fucking stupid to work anything more complicated.

Simon Staveley
Simon Staveley
11 months ago

I just assume that people who sit for anything more than a few seconds with their foot on the brake and not applying the handbrake don’t know how to drive correctly.

I always try and apply the handbrake. If I drive an auto (which is very rare) I put it in to neutral and then apply the handbrake. I hate the glare of brake lights when everyone is sat still – completely uneccesary light pollution. That’s how I was taught to drive as well – in accordance with the highway code.

Brake light glare like this can make it much harder to see any periphary details that might be useful. If it’s in a streetlit area it probably makes little difference but in a dimly light area in the rain the glare is just distracting. Might make the difference between seeing someone step off the pavement or not.

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Staveley

yet it makes it completely impossible to tell in time if someone is actually stopped if you come up on them in the dark.

Salty B
Salty B
11 months ago

I do this in any car because my right ankle gets grouchy standing on the brake pedal. In a manual, which I daily, I put it in neutral and sit unless it’s on an incline then I’ll either apply the brake or pull the parking brake. In an auto, I’ll bop the pernandle into N and do the same.

Jeremy Dale
Jeremy Dale
11 months ago

People leaving their high beams on must be MUCH less of a problem there than it is in the US. We’d have to have a 99% reduction in oncoming high beams here before I could even notice that tail lamps are bothersome.

To be fair, newer fire trucks and ambulances do have some very bright LED tails. I worry for people with epilepsy when the emergency lights are on (I don’t have any such condition, but I’ve found myself entranced by them a couple times).

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