Is Brake Checking Illegal in All States?


Kimberly Dawn Neumann

People assume the person who rear-ends another vehicle is responsible. But like most things in life, there are exceptions. Especially if the person in front slams their brakes on purpose without warning. This is called brake checking, and not only is it unsafe, but brake checking is illegal in most states.

Brake checking falls under reckless and aggressive driving, a behavior most states have specific statutes against. Brake checking needlessly endangers surrounding drivers, causing rear-end car accidents to occur. Almost 29% of all car accidents and 7.5% of fatal crashes in the United States stem from rear-end collisions.

Feel like you might have been in an accident where brake checking was the cause? Keep reading to understand why people do it and the dangers of someone hitting the brakes this way.

Free Auto Accident Evaluation

Hurt in a wreck that wasn’t your fault? Don't settle for less! Click here to speak with a nearby attorney for FREE about your claim.

What is Brake Checking?

Brake checking is when a driver unnecessarily slams their brakes to force the vehicle behind them to stop.

The key here is the intent of the driver who engages in brake testing, another term for this practice. Slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision or debris from the highway is one thing. But suddenly stopping to punish, scare, or anger another driver leads to dangerous collisions.

Why Do People Brake Check?

At its core, brake checking generally stems from road rage behaviors.

Though the action itself is one of stopping abruptly, it falls into the category of aggressive driving. That’s because brake checking is a tactic some drivers use to anger others and assert control over the surrounding traffic.

The purpose of most instances of brake checking is to make another driver fear hitting you. But most drivers may not pay attention or cannot react fast enough.

In that case, they may actually collide with you, and rear-end collisions can cause serious injuries for all parties involved, making brake checking illegal.

Even if someone is tailgating, speeding, weaving, or performing rude gestures, brake checking should never be the correct response.

Brake Checking for Cash

Sometimes brake checking is done by people actually hoping to cause an accident. Why on earth would someone try to be in a crash? The answer is usually insurance fraud.

In these instances, a brake checker wants to be rear-ended by the vehicle behind them. That way, they can file an injury claim to get an insurance payout.

There are even fraud schemes in which drivers will target semis or tractor-trailer trucks. That’s because commercial trucks have large insurance policies and cannot stop quickly.

The brake checker gets hit, risking their life in the process, and collects settlement money from the truck’s insurance company. This is highly unethical and illegal.

Is Brake Checking Illegal in All States?

Because brake checking is the definition of dangerous driving, it is indeed illegal in all 50 states. Depending on the state, it may fall under the heading of reckless driving, aggressive driving, negligent driving, or similar violations. But regardless of the classification, it’s against the law.

Who’s At-Fault in a Brake Checking Accident?

A rear-end accident caused by brake checking.

In the majority of cases involving a rear-end collision, liability for the accident is usually pinned on the back driver.

The exception is if the front driver’s brake checking causes the crash, in which case they may be negligent. However, if the back driver was tailgating, that complicates liability due to both being considered reckless driving practices.

Brake checking may also force following drivers to take evasive actions like swerving. This can lead to multiple types of car accidents such as:

In some collisions, multiple parties may be partially at-fault. Your state’s car accident laws may allow you to receive a settlement, even if you’re partially liable for the accident.

Ultimately, most accidents that involve brake checking come down to a battle of blame between the involved drivers. That’s why these cases are tough to prove, and you’ll definitely need an auto accident lawyer when trying to recover damages.

Brake Check vs. Rear-End Accident

The way to discern if an accident is brake checking or a rear-end accident circles back to intentionality.

Someone suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting a squirrel in the road is not brake checking. Someone suddenly stopping to teach the person behind them a lesson for driving too close is definitely brake checking.

The first example is not meant to affect the other driver. The second example is directly intended to affect them. Both braking actions may lead to a rear-end collision, but only one was on purpose.

What to Do After a Brake Check Accident

The first thing to do after a brake check accident is stay calm. Especially if this accident seems to be the result of a road rage interaction. You don’t want things to escalate further.

Follow the same protocol you would after any other car accident. Check for injuries and call 911 if it seems anyone needs medical attention.

Also get the police to the scene ASAP. Most states require you to call the authorities if an accident resulted in personal injury or property damage of a certain amount.

It will be important to acquire contact information from the other driver, but if tempers are high, it will help to have law enforcement present. Be careful you don’t say anything self-incriminating or hurl blame towards the other driver. Any statements made post-crash may come into play in future legal proceedings.

Definitely take photos of the damage and try to get contact information for any witnesses. All of these steps will be important later on.

How to Prove a Brake Checking Accident

If you find yourself in a brake checking accident, you’ll need to prove your version of the events.

Unless the other driver admits to brake checking pre-crash, collecting as much evidence as possible is your best bet. That’s because most of these cases end up as he-said/she-said scenarios where both parties are defending their interests.

When investigators, jurors, or a judge are determining fault in brake-checking claims, they’ll consider the following evidence:

  • Photos or videos. Dashcam footage, photos, or video of the altercations leading up and including the accident falls under this form of evidence.
  • Eyewitness statements. Written statements from individuals who saw the crash occur and can support claims from those involved in the accident.
  • Expert testimony. This includes accident reconstruction specialists and medical professionals who can provide insight into likely causes and repercussions of the crash.
  • Police reports. Law enforcement accident reports can offer important details, and insurance companies tend to view them as impartial accounts of the event.

Get as much of the above information as possible. Your lawyer will want to pair that with anything you have from the accident scene to help prove your case.

The legal penalties for brake checking depend on the laws in the area where the incident occurs.

However, reckless, aggressive, or negligent driving charges may lead to heavy fines, license suspensions, and even jail time. It is not out of the realm of possibilities that a brake checker could find themselves facing criminal charges.

Damages After a Brake Check Accident

Brake checking may lead to physical injury and property damage, for both the brake-checking driver and the cars following behind.

As such, if you are the victim of brake checking, you may choose to sue for damages. In most personal injury lawsuits, damages generally fall into two categories: compensatory and punitive.

Compensatory damages consist of:

These are monetary awards intended to make up for losses a defendant experiences from an accident. They might be for quantifiable expenses like medical bills, or less measurable losses like pain and suffering.

In brake checking cases, you may also see punitive damages as part of a claim. These usually show up only in cases of extremely reckless behavior, for which brake checking may qualify.

Punitive damages are meant to serve as a deterrent rather than compensation for some loss. They become part of a settlement purely to punish the defendant.

Avoiding Future Brake Check Accidents

Hopefully by this point it’s become clear that brake checking is just an all-around bad idea. And it’s smart to do everything you can to avoid it.

Fortunately, practicing defensive driving tactics may help keep you out of this scenario. To avoid future brake check incidents, try to:

  • Never tailgate. Leave at least 2-4 seconds between you and any car in front of you.
  • Be ready to react. Stay alert in case you have to quickly respond to someone braking.
  • Avoid conflict. Even if another driver is trying to escalate a situation, maintain yourself and move out of the way.
  • Increase your distance. If someone brake checks you and you avoid a collision, allow even more distance between your cars, or switch lanes.
  • Resist retaliating. Do not chase a driver who brake checks you.
  • Get a dashcam. Having a dashcam is a deterrent to brake checkers looking to enact insurance scams. Video can also help as proof if you do end up a victim.

Finally, though it should go without saying, never brake check anyone else. Assuaging your own road rage is just not worth the risk.

Find Expert Auto Accident Lawyers With LegalASAP

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 80% of drivers admit to frequent feelings of road rage. As such, it’s unsurprising that there are more and more incidents involving reckless and negligent driving on the roads today.

Brake checking is illegal and can lead to serious injuries and damage. If you find yourself involved in an accident stemming from aggressive driving, it’s important to get legal representation. Especially since insurance companies frequently question brake checking claims.

Let LegalASAP connect you with one of the skilled car accident attorneys in our network today. Because brake checkers and road ragers shouldn’t ever get the last word.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit:, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann