While it may be rare, accidents caused by stuck accelerator pedals do happen. Sixteen deaths and over 200 accidents have been reported due to the recent Toyota/floor mat issue alone. If one ever has the misfortune of being behind the wheel of a runaway car, maintaining composure and taking just a few simple steps can avert catastrophe.
When a stuck gas pedal occurs, we’re willing to bet that many drivers simply panic and attempt to use the brakes to stop the vehicle. In an August 2009 incident in San Diego, one of the occupants of a runaway Lexus actually had time to place a 911 call, while the driver tried in vain to stop the car. Unfortunately the driver and three occupants were killed in an eventual crash at over 100 MPH. Even though the driver was a CHP Officer, he didn’t have the presence of mind to simply place the car’s transmission in neutral.
Here are four simple steps to safely bring a runway car to a halt.
1. Shift the transmission to Neutral.
2. Use the brakes to come to a stop safely on the side (or off) the road
3. Shut off the engine with the transmission in Neutral
4. Put the car into Park
Here is what NOT TO DO in the event of a stuck accelerator.
DO NOT attempt to slow the car with the brakes. Simply put, the brakes will not beat the engine. Any resistance from the brakes will simply cause the transmission to downshift and the car will power on.
DO NOT pump the brakes . According to Consumer Reports testing, this is an especially futile reaction. Power brakes require vacuum to provide additional braking power. As the engine doesn’t generate any vacuum at full throttle, their testing found that as soon as pressure was applied, removed and then reapplied, the power assist disappeared and stopping the car became hopeless.
DO NOT turn off the ignition. This will disable your power steering assist making control of the vehicle very difficult. Worse yet, if the ignition is turned back too far, the steering wheel could be left in the locked position.
ABC News and Consumer Reports produced this video demonstrating exactly how to react to a runaway car.
All of this may seem like common sense, but some people will panic in the face of a sudden emergency. Please pass these tips along so that this knowledge is in the back of every driver’s mind.