A tragic crash in Delray Beach on April 29th killed four people and apparently involved a pickup truck crashing into the rear of a minivan, which was stopped at a traffic light. The investigation is going to be extensive and details are sketchy, but one local news report said the driver reported the “pickup suddenly lurched into high speed.”
We cannot imagine anything more horrifying than driving down the road when suddenly your car accelerates even though you do not have your foot on the accelerator. What do you do?
Sudden Unintended Acceleration
First, a history of the problem, because it has happened many times and is sometimes caused by vehicle defects. Here are a few situations involving large numbers of cars:
• 1987: The 1982-1987 Audi 5000s sales in the United States fell after recalls linked to sudden unintended acceleration. There were 700 accidents and 6 deaths.
• 2006: The 2004 model year Ford Mustang Cobra was recalled by Ford for accelerator pedals that failed to return to idle after being fully pressed.
• 2009-2011: Several vehicle models were recalled in the 2009–2011 Toyota vehicle recalls, which resulted in suspension of production and sales of many of Toyota’s most popular models, including the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Camry, Toyota Tacoma pickups, Toyota Avalon, Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, and more.
Now, what do you do if your car or truck suddenly accelerates forward while you’re driving? Popular Mechanics Magazine offers these suggestions:
Step 1 /// Press the Brake Pedal, Hard
The first thing to do–immediately–is press as hard as possible on the brake pedal. Do not pump the pedal, but simply keep steady, hard pressure. Use all the strength your leg can muster. The brakes will require significantly more force than normal because when the engine throttle is wide open, there’s no engine vacuum to power the brake booster. The car won’t slow as quickly as normal, either, but it will reduce speed. In every car, the brakes are more powerful than the engine, so eventually the brakes will win.
Step 2 /// Get Into Neutral
The next step is to shift the transmission into neutral. If the throttle is stuck wide open, the engine will rev alarmingly high. Do not worry about hurting the motor, there’s an electronic rev limiter that will automatically keep the engine spinning high enough to kill it. With the engine power now disengaged from the drive wheels, the brakes will have a much easier job.
Step 3 /// Turn Off the Car
You’re well under control now, but just to be safe, shut off the engine. Since some modern cars have push-button starters, like many Lexus models, you may have to hold the button for three seconds to cut the engine. And you should be aware that the brake-pedal pressure may increase when the motor stops running. As safely as possible, pull the car off the road and call a tow truck. There’s no sense driving the car again until the mechanical problem is found and fixed.
As strange as this may sound, they also say it’s a good idea to practice these three steps.
Performing well in any panic situation comes down to being prepared. So find an empty parking lot and practice these techniques. To simulate a stuck throttle, you’ll have to keep the throttle pinned with your right foot and use your left foot to work the brakes. After a few go-arounds, you’ll get the idea.
The Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus has worked with victims of car, truck, and motorcycle accidents where there were issues with auto manufacturer and repair defects involved. We are very experienced investigating the reasons for vehicle crashes and we are fully capable of dealing with manufacturers, dealerships, and auto repair shops in order to get the facts.
If you believe an accident you have been involved in was due to a defect in design, manufacture, or repair, we can help. Call us at 954-356-0006 and we’ll arrange a confidential consultation at your convenience.