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What is pedal error?

Braking and accelerating a vehicle are normally routine and instinctive tasks for New Yorkers. Indeed, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drivers in the United States apply their car brakes without any problems approximately 1 million times per year. But the NTSB also found that there are nearly 16,000 auto accidents each year in this country, or 44 each day, due to pedal error that could have been prevented.

Pedal error is when a driver steps on an accelerator instead of applying the brakes on a vehicle. When this occurs, the motorist’s foot slips off of the edge of the brake and onto the accelerator. It also takes place when a driver intends to step on the brake but steps on the brake and the accelerator. Pedal error can suddenly accelerate the vehicle, sometimes at full throttle, with no brake force to lower its speed.

Braking error often occurs during parking or other maneuvers involving slow speeds or in intersections and highway exit ramps when braking is required. Drivers usually recognize braking error but cannot take timely action because these incidents take place in a small place, such as a parking lot, and there are only seconds to correct it. The NHTSA found that drivers under 20 years old and over 65 are involved in these accidents four times more than other age groups.

The NHTSA’s investigation of 40 years of crash data has not identified defects in throttle and braking systems as factors. It recommended that drivers become familiar with the vehicle’s seat, mirrors and pedals before starting the car; place their feet at the middle of the brake to reinforce muscle memory and reduce pedal error; avoid distractions while driving; proceed slowly and carefully in parking spaces; and, wear appropriate footwear such as flat soled and light-weight shoes instead of flip-flops, heavy boots or high heels.

A victim of a car accident caused by another person’s braking error negligent behavior should seek timely legal assistance to determine whether there is liability for serious injuries and other losses. Prompt legal advise can help assure that any right to compensation is preserved.

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, “NHTSA safety advisory: Reducing crashes caused by pedal error,” Asssessed June 5, 2015