What is Sudden Unintended Acceleration?

No one expects that they will get into a car accident when they get behind the wheel each day, though vehicle accidents are not an uncommon occurrence. However, what most people will certainly not expect is that a manufacturing defect will cause an unintended send acceleration of their vehicle. Over the last several years, drivers across the US have reported instances of sudden unintended acceleration. While these incidents may be relatively uncommon, when they have happened, there have been serious consequences.

Understanding sudden unintended acceleration

Sudden unintended acceleration is exactly what it sounds like – a vehicle suddenly accelerating, though not because the driver has done anything differently, or so they think. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has investigated incidents of sudden unintended acceleration, they have discovered this occurs when the vehicle is already in motion. In many cases, NHTSA investigators have determined that driver error is to blame. For example, a driver may have accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes causing a car accident in Seattle.

However, speculation remains that sudden unintended acceleration is caused by an electrical defect in the vehicle. As vehicles become more and more reliant on electronic and computer systems, there are serious concerns about whether or not sudden unintended acceleration incidents will increase.

Of course, sudden unintended acceleration is not a new issue. In the 1980s, more than a quarter of a million Audi 5000 models for sudden unintended acceleration. By the time the recall occurred, more than 271 injuries and five deaths linked to the issue. In 2010, Toyota recalled more than 8 million vehicles after the NHTSA discovered that loose floor mats caused the pedal to become trapped, leading to unintended acceleration.

What if you are driving a vehicle that suddenly accelerates?

If you are in a vehicle that suddenly begins to accelerate, there are some steps you can take to keep you and your passengers safe. The number one rule here is not to panic.

  1. Use your brakes. When you experience a sudden unintended acceleration, you should move your foot over to the brake pedal and keep steady pressure on the brake. Do not keep pumping the brake pedal. In these cases, the brakes may need more force than normal, so you may need to press down harder.
  2. Shift to neutral. If you are in an emergency, your best option is to shift the vehicle to neutral. Taking the vehicle out of drive should stop the unintended forward momentum.
  3. Guide your vehicle off the road. If you are able to safely do so, guide your vehicle to a safe place on the side of the road or in a parking lot and turn on your hazard lights. If throughout the chaos of the unintended acceleration you are not able to get to a safe location, that is okay. Stopping the vehicle is your number one goal. If your vehicle has stopped in a relatively unsafe location, turn your flashing hazard lights on and remain in the vehicle while you call 911 for help.
  4. Turn off your engine. When you have regained control of your vehicle and have come to a stop, go ahead and turn off the engine. This is simple if you have a regular key ignition. If your vehicle has a push-button starter system, you may need to hold down the button for two to three seconds in order to turn the vehicle off.