— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about 16,000 crashes occur each year because a driver applies the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal.
News reports over the years from across the country have described the disastrous consequences that can occur when the wrong pedal is applied. Primarily, injuries and deaths caused to people and animals, and a ton of increased insurance rates from property damage caused by the pedal errors.
The problem of pedal error has also made the news in recent years because of investigations into unintended acceleration events, especially in Toyota vehicles.
Although many investigations have been conducted in the past 40 years, no agency has ever identified any defects that can cause failures of both the braking and throttle systems simultaneously.
Additionally, event data recorders have helped researchers learn more about what happens in milliseconds before and during a crash. The recorders, also called vehicle black boxes, have showed many drivers who believed they were applying the brake pedal were often really applying the gas pedal.
The Mistaken Pedal Pushers: Women and Teens
From cars flying through homes and businesses to SUVs launching off 3-story parking garages, the government says there are two age groups most likely to be involved.
NHTSA found two-thirds of drivers who hit the gas instead of the brake pedal in parking lot accidents were older women. Accidents in driveways and garages are more common because there is less time to recover from the mistake, as compared to it occurring on a highway.
But before you assume all these accidents involve older drivers, think again. NHTSA found the next age group that hit the wrong pedal most often involved drivers under age 20.
Researchers believe areas of the brain that affect driving might be the problem, mental areas that affected attention and organizing. Those areas are typically last to develop in younger minds.
Preventing Pedal Errors
Other than simply paying better attention, NHTSA says a few simple things have proven to help with the problem of pedal errors.
Aim for the center: The government recommends every driver aim for the center of the brake pedal each time the pedal is used. It will help train the mind to hit the correct pedal without much thought.
Change your shoes: This not only goes for women wearing high heels, but it also applies to anyone who wears heavy boots or flip-flops. Research shows the best shoes to wear when driving are light-weight shoes with flat soles.