Pedal error occurs when a driver hits the wrong pedal while operating a vehicle. A driver may hit the brake pedal instead of the gas pedal, causing the car to come to an abrupt and unexpected stop. This can result in a rear-end crash. A driver may also hit the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal. This can cause sudden acceleration as the car rapidly speeds up with no brake force to slow it down. A driver may stamp the gas harder as he begins to accelerate when he believes he is hitting the brake. A motorist may also realize he has hit the wrong pedal but may not have time to react before his car hits a pedestrian, an object, or another vehicle.
Pedal error is very dangerous and is the cause of an average 16,000 car accidents in the United States each year. Victims involved in a crash caused by pedal error or sudden acceleration should consult with a personal injury lawyer to understand what their options are for making a damage claim and recovering for crash losses.
Who is Responsible for Sudden Acceleration Accidents?
The driver who makes the mistake is typically responsible for sudden acceleration accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have investigated allegations of vehicle defects causing pedal error. The agencies have also investigated collisions involving sudden acceleration where drivers claimed their cars accelerated suddenly.
In the past five years, event recorders or black boxes in vehicles have made it possible to investigate which pedal was hit in the moments leading up to an accident. Investigating this data has allowed NHTSA and NTSB to determine the wrong pedals were being hit. NHTSA and NTSB believe every incident of sudden acceleration is caused by pedal error and no vehicle defect over the past 40 years has ever been the cause of simultaneous malfunction of the brake and accelerator leading to sudden acceleration.
Since drivers are responsible for sudden acceleration caused by hitting the wrong pedal, drivers can take steps to prevent this dangerous problem. NHTSA has tips for motorists to prevent crashes caused by pedal error. Drivers should:
- Wear shoes they can drive safely in. Avoid driving in flip flops, high heels and heavy work boots that can make it harder to feel the pedal being hit and can increase the chance of the wrong pedal being used.
- Get to know unfamiliar cars. If pedals are adjustable, motorists should adjust them before starting to drive. They should become familiar with how the brake and accelerator feel before getting started driving a new car for the first time.
- Use muscle memory. Drivers should always aim for hitting the center of the brake. This will help to develop muscle memory so the risk of pedal errors is reduced.
- Avoid distractions and go slowly. Pedal error accidents are very common in areas where braking is usually necessary, like at intersections. Many drivers also make pedal errors when parking. Drivers should pay attention, focus on driving and go slowly.
By following these tips, drivers can prevent pedal error and crashes caused by unintended acceleration.