Is Brake Checking Illegal? A Guide to Brake-Checking Laws

Is Brake Checking Illegal? A Guide to Brake-Checking Laws

Brake checking is a dangerous, and illegal, driving behavior that can cause severe injuries and property damage. If you’re the victim of a brake-checking accident in Arizona or Utah, don’t hesitate to contact Esquire Law. Our car accident lawyers will bring the responsible party to justice and secure compensation for your losses.

What Is Brake Checking?

Brake checking, also known as brake testing, is a dangerous driving behavior where a driver deliberately and suddenly applies their brakes to force the vehicle following them to slow down or even come to a complete stop unexpectedly. This can create a hazardous situation on the road and often leads to rear-end collisions or near-miss accidents. Brake checking is generally considered aggressive and reckless driving and is illegal in most jurisdictions.

Common reasons drivers engage in brake checking include:

  • Aggressive Behavior: Some drivers engage in brake checking as a form of retaliation or aggression in response to perceived offenses or annoyances from other drivers. This could be a reaction to tailgating, aggressive overtaking, or other instances of perceived discourtesy on the road.
  • Frustration: Drivers may use brake checking as a way to vent their frustration or anger when they feel they are not driving at the desired speed or are impeded by traffic.
  • Seeking Control: Some drivers engage in brake checking to assert control over the flow of traffic, attempting to enforce their preferred speed or driving conditions on others.
  • Attempt to Teach a Lesson: In some cases, drivers may brake check to teach a lesson to another driver they believe is following too closely or not maintaining a safe distance.
  • Defensive Maneuver: In rare instances, drivers may mistakenly perceive a threat or imminent danger from a vehicle behind them and brake check as a defensive measure.

Brake Checking vs. Tailgating

Brake checking and tailgating are two different but related aggressive driving behaviors that can create dangerous situations on the road. Here are the key differences between them:

Brake Checking

  • Brake checking is the act of suddenly and deliberately applying your brakes in order to force the vehicle following you to slow down or stop unexpectedly.
  • It’s typically initiated by the driver in front and is a response to perceived offenses or annoyances from the driver behind them.
  • Brake checking is an aggressive action that can lead to rear-end collisions or near-miss accidents.
  • It’s usually a retaliatory or aggressive response by the driver in front, aimed at teaching a lesson or venting frustration.


  • Tailgating is the act of following the vehicle in front of you too closely, often with insufficient space to safely react to sudden stops or emergencies.
  • It’s typically initiated by the driver behind and is a form of aggressive driving characterized by maintaining an unsafe following distance.
  • Tailgating is a proactive behavior that involves driving too closely to the vehicle in front and pressuring the driver to move faster or get out of the way.
  • It’s often driven by impatience, frustration, or a desire to assert control over other drivers.

Is Brake Checking Illegal?


Reckless driving is generally defined as operating a vehicle in a way that puts others’ safety or property at risk. Brake checking can fall under this definition, as it creates a hazardous situation on the road. The specific penalties for reckless driving in Arizona vary based on the severity of the offense. The driver may be fined, get their license suspended, or even face jail time.


Utah has various laws related to aggressive driving, including brake checking, tailgating, and sudden, unsafe stops. These behaviors can be cited as reckless aggressive driving offenses. Penalties for reckless driving in Utah can include fines, driver’s license suspension, and potential jail time, depending on the specific situation and the driver’s history behind the wheel.

Enforcement and penalties for such behaviors can vary depending on the circumstances, the officer’s discretion, and the severity of the incident. The best thing you can do on the road is refrain from brake checking and engaging in other aggressive driving behaviors. Doing so will protect you and others on the road from dangerous and potentially fatal consequences.

Why Brake Checking Is Dangerous

Brake checking is considered aggressive and reckless driving because it involves deliberate, dangerous actions that can lead to hazardous situations on the road. Here’s how and why brake checking is illegal.

  • Deliberate and Unsafe Actions: Brake checking involves a driver intentionally applying their brakes suddenly and unexpectedly, with the intention of forcing the vehicle behind them to slow down or even come to a stop. This abrupt action disrupts the flow of traffic and creates a dangerous situation.
  • Endangering Others: By brake checking, a driver puts not only themselves at risk but also endangers the safety of others on the road. The driver behind is caught off guard, and their ability to react in a safe and controlled manner is compromised.
  • Risk of Rear-End Collisions: One of the most common outcomes of brake checking is rear-end collisions. When the vehicle behind is unable to stop in time, it can lead to a collision, causing damage to both vehicles and potentially causing injuries to all occupants.
  • Retaliatory Nature: Brake checking is often a retaliatory behavior, where one driver reacts aggressively to perceived offenses or annoyances from another driver. This can escalate tensions on the road and lead to further dangerous actions.
  • Violating Traffic Laws: Brake checking violates traffic laws surrounding safe driving practices, maintaining following distances, and avoiding abrupt stops without reasonable cause. These violations are often classified as reckless or aggressive driving offenses.

The Effects of Brake Checking

Potential Consequences

If an Arizona or Utah driver violates their state’s brake-checking laws, they may face one or more of the following consequences.

  1. Criminal Charges: Brake checking may result in criminal charges, specifically reckless driving or aggressive driving, which are misdemeanors.
  2. Fines: Conviction for reckless or aggressive driving can result in fines, which can vary depending on the severity of the offense. They can be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
  3. Driver’s License Suspension: A conviction for reckless or aggressive driving may result in points on your driver’s license. Accumulating too many points can lead to a suspension of your driver’s license.
  4. Increased Insurance Rates: Convictions for reckless or aggressive driving can lead to higher auto insurance premiums. Insurance companies may view such behavior as an indicator of increased risk.
  5. Possible Jail Time: In some cases, particularly when the reckless or aggressive driving incident results in significant harm or damage, jail time may be imposed.

Injuries & Property Damage

Brake checking is an illegal, dangerous driving behavior that can lead to various physical injuries and property damage, both for the driver engaging in brake checking and the driver following behind. These are some of the most common ones.

  • Rear end collisions
  • Chain reaction accidents
  • Vehicle damage
  • Emotional and psychological trauma


Both the front and rear drivers can be held responsible for illegal brake checking accidents, depending on the circumstances and the actions they take. Here’s how.

Front Driver

  • The front driver may be held responsible for brake checking if they deliberately and abruptly apply the brakes without a valid reason, like responding to a legitimate traffic hazard.
  • If the front driver’s actions cause a rear-end collision or other accident, they can be held financially responsible for any injuries or property damage it caused.

Rear Driver

  • The rear driver can be held responsible if they brake check for no apparent reason.
  • If the rear driver’s actions cause an accident, they can be held responsible for the consequences of their reckless behavior.

How to Prove Brake Checking

Key Challenges

Proving brake checking in an accident can be challenging for several reasons.

  1. Intent and Mental State: Establishing the intent of the front driver to deliberately cause a collision can be difficult, as it often requires evidence of their state of mind at the time of the incident.
  2. Subjective Nature: Brake checking can be subjective. What one driver sees as brake checking, another may view as a reasonable response to a traffic hazard.
  3. Lack of Witnesses: The absence of independent witnesses can make it challenging to determine who initiated the brake checking and the sequence of events.
  4. Reactive Behavior: Brake checking is sometimes a reaction to aggressive driving behaviors from the rear driver, making it difficult to establish fault.
  5. Inconsistent Evidence: Skid marks, vehicle damage, and other evidence may not definitively prove brake checking, and alternative explanations may arise.
  6. Differing Testimonies: Drivers involved may provide conflicting accounts, complicating their ability to establish a clear and accurate narrative.

Evidence Required

Proving brake checking in an accident often requires a combination of evidence to establish the sequence of events and the intent of the driver. Here are some key pieces of evidence that can help support a brake-checking claim.

1. Dashcam Footage

Dashcam footage is a valuable piece of evidence. It provides a clear and objective sequence of the events prior to the accident. It can help establish whether the front driver abruptly and deliberately applied the brakes without a valid reason.

2. Witness Statements

Eyewitness accounts from individuals who saw the incident unfold can provide crucial testimony. Witnesses can describe how the driver acted, what they observed, and how they understood the situation.

3. Vehicle Damage and Skid Marks

Physical evidence, such as the extent and location of vehicle damage, can be analyzed to determine the dynamics of the collision. Skid marks on the road can help establish the timing and force of braking, which may indicate brake checking.

4. Traffic Camera Footage

Surveillance cameras at intersections or along roadways can capture the events leading up to an accident. This footage can corroborate witness statements and provide an additional perspective.

5. Previous Driver Behavior

The behavior of both the front and rear drivers before the collision can be relevant. For instance, if the front driver was previously observed driving aggressively or erratically, it may be a factor.

6. Consistency of Testimonies

The consistency of testimonies from the drivers involved and any witnesses can help establish a more reliable account of the events.

7. Expert Analysis

In complex cases, expert analysis from accident reconstruction specialists may be necessary to interpret the evidence and determine the cause of the accident.

8. Police Reports

Police reports filed at the scene of the accident can provide information on the officers’ observations, statements from the involved parties, and preliminary assessments of fault.

Advice for Victims

If you find yourself in a situation where another driver is brake-checking you, follow these tips to keep yourself and other drivers safe.

  1. Stay calm and maintain control of your vehicle
  2. Keep a safe following distance
  3. Don’t engage with the aggressive driver
  4. Use your signals if turning or changing lanes
  5. Call the police
  6. Observe and document the driver’s behavior
  7. Get to a safe location
  8. Contact an attorney
  9. Notify your insurance company if an accident occurs

How to Avoid Brake Checking and Tailgating

Here are some tips on how to avoid brake-checking and tailgating incidents altogether.

  1. Maintain a safe following distance
  2. Avoid sudden lane changes
  3. Use your signal when necessary
  4. Do not engage or retaliate
  5. Stay calm and patient
  6. Obey the speed limit
  7. Be aware of your surroundings
  8. Be mindful of weather conditions
  9. Yield the right of way
  10. Eliminate distractions

Contact Esquire Law Today for Expert Legal Support

Are you dealing with the aftermath of a brake-checking accident? You don’t have to do it alone. Our car accident lawyers will help you navigate the legal process so you can secure the compensation you deserve. We’ll start by scheduling a free case evaluation to discuss the details of your case, explain your rights and legal options, and determine what steps to take next. Contact us today to get started.

About the Author

Alan Beal

esquire law attorney Alan Beal

Alan Beal is a trial attorney who has dedicated his professional career to helping real people navigate the complexities of the insurance and legal system. Before joining Esquire Law, Alan represented insurance corporations in a variety of legal matters, ranging from personal injury to product liability disputes. His experience as an insurance defense attorney provides ... Alan Beal

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