NHTSA Urges Drivers to Help Prevent Pedal Error Accidents
Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a warning to drivers as to the possibility of pedal error accidents. Drivers use their brakes millions of times each year, with generally no issue. However, about 16,000 preventable accidents will occur annually due to pedal errors which occur when drivers mistake the accelerator for the brake. Pedal errors can result in serious property damage as well as injuries or death to vehicle occupants, surrounding motorists and pedestrians.
What is a Pedal Error?
Pedal error accidents happen when a driver steps on the accelerator by accident when they intend to step on the brake. These accidents will often occur when the driver's foot accidently slides off the edge of the brake and onto the accelerator, or when the driver intends to step on the brake but steps on both the brake and the accelerator. This can cause the vehicle to suddenly accelerate at full throttle.
Pedal error accidents happen most often in parking lots or when vehicles are traveling at relatively low speeds. They can also occur, however, at any point that braking is required, which can include intersections and highway exit or entrance ramps. Many drivers will realize they have made a pedal error, but are unable to correct it in time to prevent an accident. Once the pedal error occurs, the situation can rapidly escalate and often results in an accident.
How Common are Pedal Errors?
The NHTSA found that up to 16,000 accidents can be traced to pedal accidents each year, which equates to nearly 44 incidents per day. Drivers under the age of 20 or over the age of 65 are four times more likely to cause an accident due to a pedal error.
Preventing Pedal Error Crashes
There are a few steps you can follow to prevent pedal error crashes, including but not limited to:
- Be familiar with your vehicle: Before putting your vehicle in reverse, be sure to adjust your mirrors, steering wheel, seat, and the pedals (if applicable). If you are driving a vehicle that you do not normally drive, take extra care to familiarize yourself with the location of the pedals.
- Avoid distraction: Stay focused on driving at all times and put away any electronic devices or other potential distracters that could peel your attention away from the task of braking when necessary.
- Aim for the middle: Aim for the center of the brake pad when you use the brake as this reinforces your muscle memory and can help avoid slips of the foot onto the accelerator.
- Wear the right shoes: Wear shoes that provide you with adequate control and are not prone to slippage. Flip flops, high heels, and some boots can contribute to pedal error accidents.
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