Imagine the freeway is completely blocked. A big rig has spilled its load, a motorist has run out of fuel in the middle lane of rush-hour traffic or a herd of mule deer is crossing I-70 in Utah. You must stop NOW. If your vehicle has computer-controlled antilock braking systems (ABS), all you need do is stomp, stay and, if necessary, steer. You will stop in an unbelievably short distance. Beginning with the 2012 model year, new passenger vehicles have been required to have electronic stability control (ESC), a system that includes ABS as a key component. And about half of 15-year-old cars are equipped with ABS, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

To properly use ABS, stomp on the brake pedal as if you’d win $1 million if you break it off. Use no finesse: Pound it to the floor. Next, stay hard on the pedal until the car comes to a complete stop. Ignore nasty noises or a pulsating brake pedal. That’s ABS doing its job. After a half-dozen stops, a 15-year-old on a permit can stop the car as quickly as the best race driver on the planet.

But you must practice. That’s because there’s a problem in ABS’s organic software: the driver. If people are not trained, they don’t use ABS properly. (An important note: If your car was built before 2012, make certain it has ABS before you stomp the pedal. Watch the warning lights when you start the vehicle for one that says “ABS.”)

One last word on panic stops: If the situation calls for emergency braking, don’t worry about the vehicle behind you. If you hit the car in front of you, you get the ticket and may get sued. If the car behind hits you, he gets the ticket.

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