Is Brake Checking Illegal?

Friday, June 30, 2023

Is Brake Checking Illegal?

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

We’ve all been there – you’re driving through horrible Chicago traffic, and the driver in front of you slams on their brakes, seemingly for no reason. This type of conduct is often called brake checking, and it can, unfortunately, result in serious, injury-causing accidents.

Importantly, accidents involving brake checking are one of the few instances in which the driver in the front can be held liable for a rear-end accident.

In the event that you have suffered injuries in an accident caused by a driver who brake-checked you, you need to talk to a Chicago car accident lawyer as soon as you can. An attorney may be able to help you get compensation for your losses, including the damage to your vehicle, your medical expenses, and your pain and suffering.

What is Brake Checking, and Why Does it Happen?

Brake checking is a driving behavior characterized by intentionally slamming on the brakes or abruptly slowing down to force the driver behind to stop suddenly. It is a dangerous and aggressive tactic that can lead to car accidents and potentially serious injuries. Brake checking typically occurs in situations where there is a perceived provocation or frustration between drivers on the road.

Road Rage

One common cause is road rage, which refers to intense anger or aggressive behavior exhibited by a driver in response to a perceived provocation or frustration while driving. Road rage can stem from various factors, including traffic congestion, reckless driving, tailgating, or other perceived violations of driving etiquette.

Getting other Drivers to Back Off

In some cases, brake checking may occur as a defensive measure. A driver may believe that another vehicle is following too closely, and by suddenly slowing down, they attempt to create distance and send a signal to the tailgating driver to maintain a longer following distance. That said, brake checking is dangerous to everyone involved and is never justified, even if a trailing vehicle is following more closely than a driver would like.

Aggressive Driving

Brake checking may also be a result of general aggressive driving behavior. Some individuals may have a tendency to engage in risky and confrontational driving maneuvers, such as sudden lane changes, speeding, or cutting off other drivers. Brake checking can be seen as an extension of this aggressive behavior, as the driver aims to assert control or retaliate against perceived infractions.

Distracted or Impaired Driving

Additionally, distractions or impairment can contribute to brake-checking incidents. If a driver is not fully focused on the road due to distractions like texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in other activities, they may not notice the potential dangers and consequences of their actions. Similarly, impaired driving, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or fatigue, can impair judgment and increase the likelihood of engaging in reckless behaviors like brake checking.

It is important to note that brake checking is a hazardous and illegal driving behavior in Illinois. It can result in rear-end collisions, whiplash injuries, and even more severe accidents if other drivers on the road are unable to react in time. It is crucial for all drivers to prioritize safety, maintain a safe following distance, and practice patience and courtesy on the road to minimize the occurrence of brake checking incidents and promote a safer driving environment.

Illinois Laws on Brake Checking

There is no doubt that brake checking is a dangerous driving behavior that can lead to accidents and injuries. However, the legality of brake checking varies from state to state in the United States. In the case of Illinois, the act of brake checking can potentially be considered illegal under certain circumstances.

In Illinois, the primary statute governing brake checking is part of the Illinois Vehicle Code. This law states that drivers should not drive a vehicle in a manner that endangers the safety of others. Intentionally causing a sudden stop or slowing down in front of another vehicle without any legitimate reason can be seen as reckless driving behavior that puts others at risk.

Reckless driving is a serious offense in Illinois, and it is defined as driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Brake checking can be seen as a manifestation of such disregard. If a driver is found guilty of reckless driving, they may face penalties, such as fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment, depending on the circumstances and prior driving record.

It is important to note that determining whether brake checking occurred can be challenging, as it often relies on witness statements, video evidence, or the testimony of the drivers involved. In some cases, drivers may argue that they had a legitimate reason for abruptly slowing down, such as avoiding an obstacle or an immediate hazard on the road. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and good judgment when driving and to avoid intentionally creating dangerous situations on the road.

Who is Responsible for Brake Checking Accidents?

You may have heard that drivers in the rear are always liable for rear-end collisions. This is not true. What is true is that the trailing driver is usually responsible for rear-end collisions, and that brake checking accidents are an exception to this rule.

That said, it can be extremely difficult to prove that an accident was caused by brake checking. It is easy for the driver in the front to simply argue that you were following too closely and did not have time to stop. In many cases, you will need to produce additional evidence, such as eyewitness testimony or surveillance footage supporting your claim that the driver ahead of you brake-checked you. For this reason, you should retain an experienced Chicago car accident attorney as soon as you can after an accident.

Injuries from Brake-Checking Accidents

Brake-checking collisions can result in a range of injuries, varying from minor to severe, depending on the speed, the vehicles involved, and the circumstances of the collision.

When a driver intentionally slams on their brakes or abruptly slows down to force the driver behind to stop suddenly, it can lead to rear-end collisions and potential harm to both drivers and passengers. Here are some common injuries that can occur as a result of brake-checking collisions:


Whiplash is one of the most common injuries in rear-end collisions. It happens when the head and neck are forcefully thrown forward and then snapped back due to the sudden impact. This can strain the muscles and ligaments in the neck, causing pain, stiffness, headaches, and reduced range of motion.

Soft tissue injuries

Soft tissue injuries include sprains, strains, and bruises to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The forceful impact during a brake-checking collision can lead to these types of injuries, causing pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the affected area.

Back injuries

The sudden jolt from a rear-end collision can cause injuries to the back, such as herniated discs, vertebral fractures, or spinal cord damage. These injuries can result in severe pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities, and even long-term disability.

Head and brain injuries

Depending on the severity of the collision, drivers and passengers may experience head injuries. These can range from concussions, which are mild traumatic brain injuries, to more severe forms like skull fractures or brain contusions. Head injuries can have long-lasting effects on cognitive function, memory, and overall quality of life.

Facial injuries

If airbags deploy during the collision or your head comes into contact with the steering wheel or dashboard, it can cause injuries to the face and head. Common facial injuries include lacerations, fractures, dental trauma, and eye injuries. These injuries may require immediate medical attention and, in some cases, surgical intervention.

Chest and abdominal injuries

The impact of a brake-checking collision can cause drivers and passengers to forcefully strike the steering wheel, dashboard, or seat belts. This can lead to chest and abdominal injuries, including broken ribs, internal bleeding, organ damage, and bruising. In severe cases, these injuries may require emergency medical treatment and surgery.

Psychological trauma

In addition to physical injuries, brake-checking collisions can also result in psychological trauma. The suddenness and violence of the impact can cause emotional distress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a fear of driving or being in a car.

If You Have Been Involved in a Brake Checking Accident, Seek Medical Attention Right Away

It’s important to seek medical attention promptly after a brake-checking collision, even if injuries may initially seem minor. Some injuries, such as whiplash or soft tissue injuries, may not present immediate symptoms but can worsen over time if left untreated.

Additionally, it can be difficult to obtain compensation after a brake-checking injury. Not only is the other side going to argue that you were at fault, but they also may try to minimize the extent of your injuries. When you seek medical attention, it will result in a detailed record that can help prove the extent of your injuries.

Speak with a Chicago Car Accident Lawyer Now

If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by someone slamming on the brakes in front of you, you need legal representation immediately. At Malman Law, we will carefully review the details of your case at no cost to you and let you know if you have a claim. To schedule your free case evaluation with a car accident attorney in Chicago, call our office today or contact us online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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