Pressing on your brake pedal only to find it unresponsive is a terrifying feeling. Unfortunately, it can happen, and your actions in the moments after can make a significant difference. There are steps you can take to stop your vehicle as safely as possible, which will hopefully prevent serious accidents and injuries from occurring. First and foremost, ensure your vehicle and your brakes are properly maintained at all times. Doing so will greatly reduce your risk of experiencing a braking issue.

As soon as you realize your brakes aren’t working, remove your foot from the gas pedal. If there are other vehicles around you, turn on your emergency blinkers to signal a problem. You can also honk your horn to increase awareness, especially if the other vehicles are particularly close to you. While your primary impulse will be to stop the vehicle, you need to slow down enough to safely come to a stop on your own. This could mean driving farther until it’s safe to do so, so if you’re on a highway that might mean taking the next exit or driving on the shoulder.

If you have anti-lock brakes, press down on the pedal firmly while steering. If you don’t, tap the pedal gently to decrease your momentum. At this point, try shifting your car into neutral, which will slow its progression. As your speed decreases, try engaging the emergency brake. Whatever you do, do not shut off your vehicle until it’s come to a complete stop. Once your vehicle is shut off, you’ll no longer be able to steer, which will increase your risk of being involved in a crash. As soon as you’re stopped in a safe area, call for a tow to the nearest auto mechanic. Under no circumstances should you attempt to drive the vehicle until the problem has been fixed.