Monday, September 17, 2012

Stuck accelerator? Really?

This video surfaced a few weeks ago showing a "terrifying" ordeal for a woman in a car with a "stuck accelerator". You know from my blog that I'm not one for being politically correct, so let me just come out and say it: I think the chances of this being the car and not the driver are pretty much zero. My guess is that she had her foot hard on the accelerator all the time - for whatever reason - maybe thinking it was the brake. She only comes to a stop when the 911 operator tells her to step on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. My guess is that this was the first time she moved her feet in the footwell and discovered she actually wasn't using the brake at all, and when she did, the car (and this is a spoiler alert) stopped. When she gets out of the car, it doesn't zoom off either. If the accelerator was stuck open, as soon as she took her foot off the brake to get out, the car would have taken off again. It's also curious how, when asked if she could shift the transmission into neutral, she said it was "stuck". There's no physical gate or interlock in an automatic transmission that prevents a shifter from being pushed from "D" into "N". That's actually a safety feature - to be able to get into neutral without having to push any buttons or go around a gate. If it was a manual gearbox (unlikely), simply pushing the clutch would disengage the engine.
So why do I have this opinion? Because I've seen the state of driving nowadays and have no faith that claims of unexpected acceleration have anything to do with the car, but everything to do with the driver. This is borne out by countless studies that show that in most cases it is the driver at fault - they had their foot hard on the accelerator, not the brake. (ECU and black boxes don't tend to lie.) In over two-thirds of the cases, it was middle-aged women - exactly what we have in this case. That's not me being sexist, that's a simple fact. The politically-correct term for it is "pedal misapplication". The non politically-correct term for it is drivers who haven't got a clue what they're doing. So I'm sorry to seem heartless, callous and acusatory, but I don't think there's any chance - not a single shred - that this case is any different. I think this woman had her foot hard on the accelerator and only when someone told her to brake, did she brake. I could of course be proven to be wrong (I frequently am), in which case I'll apologise. But numerous studies and statistics are on my side here so I'm not holding my breath.
"Safety regulators, human-error experts and auto makers say driver error is the primary cause of sudden accelerations."
Driver error to blame for most incidents
Video of woman with "stuck accelerator":