Driver Use & Non-Use of Vehicle Parking Brake - Expert Research

How often do drivers use their vehicle’s parking brake and in which situations are they most likely to use them? In this research project, the automotive engineers at Robson Forensic sought to answer this question.


The parking brake on passenger vehicles provides a redundant safety feature that prevents unintended vehicle movement in the event of user error or the failure of other transmission systems. Drivers who do not apply the parking brake when parking rely on the transmission alone to hold the vehicle after they park.

Unintended vehicle movement can occur in manual transmission vehicles if the operator fails to place the transmission in gear. In all vehicles, unintended movement can occur if the slope of the roadway is sufficient to overcome the static forces of the engine or if critical transmission parts have broken or worn. Unintended motion of a parked vehicle creates an unexpected and nearly silent danger of being knocked over or run over to nearby pedestrians and former passengers who have exited the vehicle.

This study was conducted to investigate how often and why drivers use the parking brake.


  • The parking brake is infrequently applied in 75% of the vehicles with automatic transmissions.
  • About 82% of vehicles with manual transmissions are parked with the parking brake applied.
  • The parking brake application method (lever, pedal, button) is a factor that affects driver use.

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