Educate drivers about brakes

By February 22, 2011

I was astounded to learn from the recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that “unintended acceleration” of cars is commonly caused by “brake misapplication.” In other words, the driver gets confused, applies the accelerator when thinking he is applying the break, and the car rapidly accelerates and often a fatal accident results.

I assume the driver is thinking that if he pushes even harder down on his “brake” that somehow the car will slow down. I have heard of such events happening in parking lots, but I was never trained or thought it possible that a driver could commit such an error on the open road. You would think there would be time to recognize the error and take appropriate action.

This phenomenon of brake misapplication explains something that has always perplexed me, that is, the high-speed fatal accident caused by the drunken driver, such as what recently happened in Davis. I suspect the great speed that caused that fatal accident resulted from the confusion of a highly impaired driver who was frantically trying to stop her accelerating car by having her foot pressing the accelerator, not the brake to the floor. If that was the case, she was drunk and terrified, a fatal combination.

Brake misapplication would explain the speed and the lack of tire skid marks. I feel so sad for her and her grieving family.

I suggest we spread the word on the hazard of brake misapplication. If people have been exposed to the idea that this could happen, then maybe some of then can recognize their error in time to take their foot off that “brake,” which is really the accelerator, and prevent a tragic accident. That said, please dont think I condone driving while distracted or impaired.

John Wagoner


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