Each year, approximately 16,000 preventable crashes occur as a result of pedal error, when drivers mistakenly step on the accelerator while intending to apply the brakes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
How does this happen? Sometimes a driver’s foot slips off the edge of the brake onto the accelerator. Sometimes the driver accidentally steps on both the brake and the accelerator. The result can lead to sudden vehicle acceleration, often at full-throttle, with no brake force slowing the vehicle down.
These types of accidents usually occur when a vehicle is traveling at very low speeds, such as when the driver is attempting to park in a parking lot or garage. But they also occur in other situations that commonly require braking, such as approaching an intersection or exiting a highway.
Research indicates that drivers under the age of 20 or over the age of 65 experience pedal error crashes about four times more frequently than other age groups. However, these crashes are seen among other age groups as well, NHTSA said.
NHTSA recently issued an advisory offering five safety tips aimed at preventing pedal error crashes. You may want to pass these tips along to fleet drivers as a friendly reminder:
1. Get Familiar – Adjust your seat, mirrors, steering wheel and pedals (if they are adjustable) properly before starting the vehicle. If you’re driving a vehicle you don’t normally drive, make sure to familiarize yourself with the location and feel of the accelerator and brake pedals.
2. Aim for the Middle – Make it a habit to aim for the center of the brake pedal every time the brake is used. This reinforces muscle memory and reduces the chances of pedal error.
3. Avoid Distractions – Stay focused on the driving task until the vehicle is safely stopped, shifted into park, and the engine is turned off.
4. Be Cautious – Proceed slowly and carefully when pulling in and backing out of parking spaces.
5. Wear the Right Shoes – Your footwear affects your ability to operate a vehicle. Footwear such as flip-flops, heavy boots or high heels can contribute to pedal error crashes. Wear flat-soled and lightweight shoes whenever you’re in the driver’s seat. (That doesn’t mean you have to wear those at the job site, in the office or during sales calls. Just change your shoes once the vehicle is safely parked; it only takes a minute.)
To view a NHTSA video on the subject, click on the link or photo below the headline.
Originally posted on Automotive Fleet