All cars in the US have parking brakes. It can be called by many names, such as hand brake, emergency brake, or parking brake. Most of the time I only ever see it used by people with manual transmission cars, because automatic transmissions don’t require it to stay where they were stopped. Personally, I always put the parking brake on when I park an automatic. It feels a lot more secure. There are a few different designs for how to engage the parking brake.
This is the most utilitarian design. All you can do is push it with your foot, and depending on the model you either push it again to release it, or there’s a lever nearby to pull to release it. It may not be the best for those that aren’t as agile, because it typically requires picking your foot up higher and pushing hard.
This is the most versatile design. This is where the name handbrake can be used. It’s easy to engage the parking brake different amounts, and you can engage and release at will, which is a lot harder with the pedal version. The lever design also can make things fun, because it allows you to lock your rear wheels and cause to to slide on purpose, like in a snow-covered parking lot.
I’m not really sure where I stand on this design. Requirements for parking/emergency brakes is merely that the way they are engaged is separate from the regular hydraulic system, so you still have a way to stop if you lose your hydraulic brake system. Usually it’s done by pulling on physical cables with the aforementioned pedal or lever, but with electric parking brakes you just push a button and a little motor activates the brakes. While I’m sure there must be a backup power supply for in case your car loses power, I still don’t really like the idea of my emergency stopping measure not being a physical link.
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