Typically, drivers report that the vehicle accelerates or maintains speed of its own accord and cannot be controlled. Some events have reportedly resulted in a crash, though fortunately most seem to occur at relatively low speed.
Driver error is likely to be a factor in many cases but jammed throttle linkages, accelerator pedals trapped by floor mats and cruise control systems that refuse to disengage could also be regarded as unintended acceleration events. In many cases the cause is never identified.
What to do if faced with an unintended acceleration event
The following information is provided as a guide. Every unintended acceleration event will be different, as will the road and traffic conditions at the time. You must make your own judgement as to the safest course of action for your situation. Above all, stay calm and consider the consequences of your actions.
- Identify a safe place to stop, and aim for it. Consider what effect your actions will have on other road users
- Switch off the ignition. Take care not to lock the steering while the vehicle is moving. If your car has a push button stop, remember that you may have to hold the button down for several seconds before the engine responds
- Move the gearshift to Neutral. Do not select Park while the vehicle is moving. If the engine hasn’t stopped, it may be damaged by over speeding
- Cancel or switch off cruise control if in use
- Apply the brake. Use both feet on the pedal if necessary
- Do not pump the brake pedal. This may reduce the number of assisted brake applications available
- Use the hand brake judiciously. Avoid locking rear wheels as that could send the vehicle out of control
- Is the accelerator pedal jammed down? If so, can you free it without compromising control of the vehicle?
- Think about the situation and what you’re doing. If the brake pedal feels like it goes to the floor, doesn’t have a ‘solid’ feel or the vehicle feels like it speeds up when the brake is depressed, you must ask yourself if you really have your foot on the brake
- If all else fails, consider your options. For example, sideswiping a guard rail or other structure will cause extensive damage but may assist in reducing speed, and is vastly preferable to hitting a pedestrian, an oncoming vehicle or other ‘hard’ object
- Have the vehicle checked to identify and correct any mechanical or electrical issue that caused the problem.
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