Pumping the brakes: What is cadence braking and is it still useful?

By dpa | 28 February 2021

BERLIN: Many driving schools used to teach cadence braking, also known as stutter braking, as the right way to effect an emergency stop on a low-traction surface such as an icy road.

Rapidly pumping (applying and releasing) the brake pedal reduces skidding, but the technique has largely been made obsolete by modern technology.

"Cadence braking is meant to prevent the wheels from locking up and maintain the vehicle's steerability," says Akhmed Leser, head of damage and value assessment at TUV Thueringen, a German technical inspection association.

"This driving technique was regularly criticised, though, because it increased stopping distances considerably."

What's more, he adds, many drivers lacked sufficient skill to do it properly.

Nowadays drivers can rely on electronic assistance systems such as an anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC). "An ABS uses cadence braking but, unlike a driver, can apply and release the brakes in fractions of a second," Leser says.

So to come to a stop as quickly as possible, all that drivers have to do now is to slam on the brakes. Electronics do the rest.

"An ABS not only maintains steerability, it also prevents flat spots on tyres, which used to be a frequent consequence of heavy braking without cadence braking," remarks Leser.

Since 2004, all new cars put on the market in the European Union are equipped with an ABS. For motorcycles with a cubic capacity over 125 cc and 11 kW of power, an ABS has been mandatory since 2016.