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How Can Florida Drivers Avoid Pedal Error Crashes?

We've all read the stories of drivers who crashed into buildings, other vehicles or even into crowds of people because they accidentally stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. When we see them on television, it's often because multiple people were injured or killed or because there was considerable damage to a structure. However, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration report last year, almost 44 cases involving "pedal error" occur every day. That's about 16,000 annually.

Many of these high-profile pedal error car crashes involve seniors and elderly drivers. The NHTSA study confirmed that people over 65 as well as those under 20 have quadruple the chance of causing a pedal error crash than people in other age groups.

Not all pedal error incidents are the same. In some cases, the driver accidentally steps on the accelerator instead of the brake. In others, the driver accidentally hits both pedals while intending to only hit the brake. Even when drivers recognize what they've done, they're often unable or too surprised to correct the problem in time to avoid hitting something or someone.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration provides some advice that all of us, regardless of our age or driving experience, would be wise to heed to help avoid a pedal error accident:

  • Wear light-weight, flat shoes for driving. (You can change into your high heels, flip-flops or heavy work boots later.)
  • If you're driving a vehicle that you don't usually drive, like a rental car or your spouse's car, make sure that you get the feel of where both pedals are. The same precautions should be taken if you share a car with someone who adjusts the seats, steering wheel and mirrors differently than you do.
  • Get in the habit of pushing down on the middle of the brake pedal. This will help reduce the chances of hitting the accelerator by mistake.
  • Avoid distractions while parking. Of course, distracted driving is always dangerous. However, don't let down your guard as you reach the end of your trip. Proceed slowly and carefully as you park your vehicle.

Sudden acceleration crashes resulting from pedal error can cause serious injuries and fatalities, particularly to bystanders and pedestrians. Drivers responsible for those crashes, while likely not meaning to cause harm, still can be held criminally and civilly liable for their actions.

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, "NHTSA Safety Advisory: Reducing crashes caused by pedal error," accessed Feb. 26, 2016

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