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Braking is a critical function of driving. After all, we need to brake or slow down for red and yellow traffic lights, stop signs, pedestrians and much more. But safety experts say that most drivers brake hard and/or slam on their brakes far too much, adding extra wear and tear on their vehicles and tires and increasing fuel costs. Not to mention that slamming on your brakes might cause you to lose control of your car.

Distracted driving, driving too fast for road conditions, surpassing the speed limit and tailgating all can lead to the hard braking/accelerating cycle and put you at a greater risk for a car accident/injury. Every time you brake, you lose engine power, which eventually has to be regained by — you guessed it — pushing down on the gas pedal and accelerating again. So the key to smooth driving is to avoid relying on both functions too much. By doing so, you conserve both fuel and your brakes.

Changing our habits means learning or relearning to drive differently. Here’s a challenge: The next time you drive, see how few times you have to resort to hard braking — safely of course. Avoid tailgating and drive the speed limit. Anticipate traffic flows and respond accordingly. You may be surprised to find, that over time, that it becomes second nature. You’re always going to have a need to brake aggressively at certain times to avoid a collision. The road is an unpredictable place. But keeping a closer eye on the road and what’s happening in front of you can help you avoid hard braking and accelerating.

Driving like this takes practice and some patience, but the ROI is there. Some estimates indicate that drivers can save up to 70 miles per tank of fuel by reducing the amount of times they slam on their brakes, as well as sparing extra wear and tear on brake pads and other vehicle components and tires. Depending on your vehicle and traffic conditions, you can likely increase your fuel efficiency by 10 or 20 percent.

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