By now, I’m sure most of our readers know about the very serious problem Toyota is experiencing. A global recall affecting 4.5 million of their vehicles is taking place because of possible faulty pedals that could become jammed causing your car to continue accelerating when you’d rather stop. While the company has reassured its customers this is a rare problem, it’s still a scary possibility.
So what do you do if you’re driving down the freeway at 70 mph and you see traffic and brake lights ahead, but when you lift your foot off the gas pedal, nothing happens? It’s stuck and your car continues accelerating at its current speed.
The first step is to remain calm and not panic or freeze. I know this is easier said then done, but if you’ve been in a high-speed car crash like I have, you know how even a couple of seconds can make all the difference. The natural impulse in a situation like this is to try to resolve the problem directly. In other words, if the accelerator is stuck, your first move will probably be to try to get it unstuck.
But according to Stephen Mead, assistant chief examiner at Britain’s Institute of Advanced Motoring, that would be a mistake. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to get the pedal “unstuck” in time so don’t even try. Also, don’t bother doing things like putting on the hazard lights—you may only have a few seconds to avoid a fatal crash so don’t waste valuable time. What you have to do is bring your car to a stop.
So here are the steps you should take according to Mr. Mead:
Firmly press down on the brake (don’t pump it). This will override the gas. Don’t use your handbrake/parking brake—that could cause the brake pads to burn out and throw your car into a spin.
If you’re driving a stick shift, depress the clutch, which will stop the engine from powering the car. If you’re in an automatic, shift to neutral.
Continue braking and keep an eye out for someplace you can safely pull over. But do not try to steer across in one quick swerve—this could destabilize the vehicle especially if you’re moving at a high speed.
But what happens if your brakes fail as well? This is unlikely as modern cars have dual brakes, but let’s say it does occur. Depressing the clutch or putting on your parking brake is the best course of action in this scenario. It might be difficult at high speeds to put your car into a lower gear, but the gentle application of the parking brake will help.
But what if your clutch or parking brake decides that this is the perfect time to fail as well? This would probably make you the unluckiest person in the world since the odds of all these things happening at once is pretty astronomical, but if it does, turn off the ignition, but do not remove your key or the steering lock will be activated and that’s the last thing you need.
Finally, what if your key is also stuck and won’t budge? Well, then you’re on your own, my friend. Probably best to mutter a prayer and aim for something soft to crash into.