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Did you know that an anti-lock braking system is now required for all new cars - but what exactly is it and how does it work?
Anti-lock braking system, also known as ABS, is an excellent safety system because it can help prevent an accident.
Previously, if you slammed on the brakes too hard, the brakes would overcome the grip of the car’s tyres – causing the wheels to stop turning. It is also known as brake lock-up.
Even if the steering wheel is turned, physics dictates that the wheels will skid in a straight line, even if they are not turning.
When this happens, the rest of the car loses its ability to steer and continues straight ahead, usually into whatever caused you to hit the brakes in the first place.
So, why do we slam the brakes so hard when confronted with a potentially dangerous situation? Unfortunately, this is a natural human reaction: we think if some braking is beneficial, surely more will get me out of the high risk situation.
Essentially the ABS control module detects whether the wheels have stopped turning while the rest of the vehicle is still moving.
If the computer detects brake lock-up, it releases the brakes for a fraction of a second, just long enough to get the wheels turning again and steer the car clear of the object that made you stomp on the brake in the first place.
All of this occurs while your foot is firmly on the brake pedal, causing the brakes to lock up almost instantly and then release. This can happen up to twenty times per second.
This means that the ABS will maintain the braking pressure while slowing down as quickly as possible, allowing the driver to maintain control. This allows you to have a better chance of not losing control and avoiding an accident.
While ABS may shorten stopping distances by preventing an uncontrolled skid, it is a passive safety system whose effectiveness is dependent on the car's brakes and the driver's reaction time.
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