illuminated car brake lights

Brake Checking: What Is It and Is It Illegal?

December 14, 2023

When it comes to driving safety, certain behaviours on the road not only raise questions of etiquette but also of legality, and one such behaviour is 'brake checking'. Understanding what brake checking entails and its legal status in the UK is important if you’re regularly on the road, so let’s take a look at what the UK law says.

What Is Brake Checking?

Brake checking occurs when a driver deliberately brakes sharply and unexpectedly in front of another vehicle, usually in response to what they perceive as tailgating or aggressive driving. This action can force the trailing driver to brake suddenly, potentially causing a collision or at least a very close call.

Is Brake Checking Illegal UK?

While there's no specific law in the UK that mentions 'brake checking', performing this manoeuvre can be deemed as dangerous or careless driving, and both are considered criminal offences under the Road Traffic Act. Put simply, dangerous driving is defined as driving that falls far below the standard expected of a competent driver, and driving in a manner that would be considered by a competent and careful driver as being dangerous.

Potential Consequences

Penalties for Brake Checking

If caught and prosecuted for brake checking - especially if you cause a car accident - the penalties can be severe. Dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both, while careless driving - while less serious - can still result in a substantial fine and penalty points on your licence,

Legal and Insurance Ramifications

From an insurance perspective, if brake checking results in an accident, the brake checker could be deemed at fault: this could lead to increased insurance premiums and difficulties in future insurance applications, as well as waiving your right to financial compensation for repairs or personal injuries. On the other hand, if you’re involved in an accident caused by another driver brake checking, you do have the right to pursue legal action against the instigator.

Reporting Brake Checking Incidents

If you're a victim of brake checking, it's important to report the incident to the police, especially if it results in a collision or near miss. Dashcam footage can be particularly useful in these situations, as can CCTV footage and nearby witness accounts. Even if it doesn’t cause an accident, reporting such incidents can help prevent future occurrences and holds the responsible driver to account.

How to Avoid Involuntary Brake Checking

a car on the road with iluminated brake lights

While having a driver aggressively tailgate you on the road can be annoying, never resort to brake checking. To avoid unintentional brake checking, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you: this distance should increase with your speed as well as in adverse weather conditions. Additionally, always be aware of your surroundings and the behaviour of other drivers: and if you do find yourself being tailgated, don’t react aggressively. Instead, when safe, move over and let the tailgater pass.

Key Takeaways

Overall, while brake checking isn't explicitly labelled as illegal, it falls under dangerous or careless driving, which are criminal offences in the UK. Plus there are also the moral and financial consequences to consider: brake checking isn’t only hazardous but can also have serious legal and insurance ramifications, especially if you end up injuring passengers or the other driver. As responsible drivers, it’s important to remain calm on the road, maintain safe driving distances, and report any reckless behaviours to the authorities.


What should I do if someone brake checks me?

If you're brake checked, stay calm and avoid retaliating; instead, keep a safe distance and, if necessary, pull over to regain your composure. If an accident occurs, document the scene, exchange information with the other driver, and report the incident to the police.

Can dashcam footage be used as evidence in brake checking incidents?

Yes, dashcam footage can be instrumental as evidence in incidents involving brake checking, and can help establish the sequence of events as well as identify the responsible party.

How can I prove that I was brake checked if there's no video evidence?

Proving brake checking without video evidence can be challenging, however witness statements, skid marks, vehicle damage patterns, and your account of the event can be helpful. Reporting the incident to the police immediately can also bolster your case.

Does brake checking affect no-claims bonuses in insurance claims?

If you're involved in an accident caused by brake checking and are found not at fault, it generally should not affect your no-claims bonus. However, each insurance company's policy might differ, so it's best to check with your provider.

Are there any specific laws against tailgating in the UK?

Tailgating, or driving too close to the vehicle in front, is considered careless driving in the UK and can result in fines and penalty points. It's one of the main provocations for brake checking, and both behaviours are dangerous and punishable under UK traffic laws.