Brake Failure Accidents

By: Nick Johnson

They are something that we all take for granted, the brakes on our car. We expect them to work perfectly when necessary, and especially if we need them in an emergency. It's a part of the vehicle that's certainly overworked - the average driver uses their brakes an estimated 75,000 times in a year.

Fortunately brake failure accidents are relatively rare. Comprising an estimated 5% or less of car accidents per year in the United States. It's very unusual for a vehicle to suffer total failure of the braking system.

Most vehicles retain some degree of control over their brakes even if the main system doesn't work and most cars actually have two braking systems: one acting as a back up system. Even though brake failure is relatively rare - along with tire blowouts, brake failure is actually one of the top causes of accidents involving trucks and larger vehicles. And a small number of accidents involving trains and boats are caused every year by brake failure as well.

It's extremely difficult to prove brake failure as the cause of an accident and if you suspect it, you will definitely need the services of an attorney experienced in this area. Brake failure can be caused by owner negligence, faulty servicing or faulty installation. It can often be difficult to prove where the blame lies.

Several specific issues can help contribute to brake failure. Some common problems include the hydraulic lines not being attached properly and overheating brakes which can damage brake pads or rotors. And a car may not have a brake shift interlock system, the device that prevents the driver from shifting out of park without having to depress the brake pedal.

Advances in technology have reduced the possibility of brake failure. Modern dual circuit brake systems are significantly less likely to fail than the drum braking system, often found on older cars. And the introduction of anti lock brakes has helped to prevent the wheels from locking up if the driver has to brake hard.

Brake failure (or just the possibility of it) is costly and time consuming for car manufacturers. In April 2007, BMW recalled over 160,000 SUVs because of a problem that could cause a potential loss of brake fluid or even the brake circuit to fail completely.

And in May of the same year, Chrysler recalled 60,000 vehicles due to an issue with potential brake failure. Prevention, it is often said, is better than cure. There may be no sure way to prevent the possibility of a brake failure accident, but you can do your part. Make sure that your brakes are inspected and serviced regularly. If there is a recall notice for your vehicle, affecting the brakes or anything else; take it seriously.

The brakes are one part of the vehicle where it's fairly noticeable if there's a problem. Some warning signs that there is something wrong with your brakes include a grinding or squeaking noise when using the brake, difficulty actually stopping the car and use of the brakes causing the car to veer to one side.

And don't neglect your brake fluid. One of the most important parts of any vehicle, but also one of the most overlooked. Most experts recommend that you completely change the brake fluid every year or two despite the fact that this important point isn't referenced in many vehicle owners' manuals.

Brake fluid that contains glycol starts to attract moisture almost as soon as it is put in the car's system and too much moisture can make the brake fluid unsafe. Brake fluid that has been in the car for a year may contain 2% water. Brake fluid that hasn't been replaced in several years may be up to 8% water. Never use anything other than approved brake fluid for your car.

And if you are driving and the unthinkable happens and there is brake failure, what should you do? Try to stay calm and if practical, maneuver your car to the right lane, shoulder or exit. Take your foot off the gas pedal and once the car has slowed down, put it in neutral.

Apply the handbrake and pull over in a safe place. So remember, look after your brakes. They are one of the most vital parts of your vehicle. Brake failure is rare . But if you are in an accident and suspect brake failure, be sure to seek qualified legal advice.

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