There are many risks that arise when a person enters a vehicle. One risk, which has recently gained considerable public awareness due to Toyota’s massive recall of more than 9 million vehicles, is that of a runaway vehicle. This problem is known as sudden unintended acceleration and can be one of the most terrifying events a person can experience.
How Sudden Acceleration Occurs
Sudden acceleration occurs when the electronics system of a vehicle forces the throttle wide open, causing the car to become unable to return to an idling state. This causes a severe limitation on the brakes’ ability to stop the automobile and bring the situation under control. The driver of a vehicle that experiences sudden acceleration can become the victim of a runaway car, which can cause injury or death to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Causes of Sudden Acceleration
The cause of sudden acceleration is a malfunction in the system that controls an automobile’s power-train. While advances in technology and in the way automobiles are produced have made vehicles safer, it has also introduced more complicated electronics systems. The more complex the electronics system is, the greater chance there is that a vehicle will experience sudden acceleration. The specific cause of each case of sudden acceleration becomes difficult to trace, which allows for automakers to lay blame on the driver of the vehicle.
When Sudden Acceleration Occurs
Sudden acceleration of an automobile can occur at any instant during the driving cycle. The car can be at a standstill, or can be traveling at speeds equal to speed limits on highways and freeways. In the past few years, however, sudden acceleration has been shown to occur more frequently when the vehicle is in motion rather than at a standstill. Sudden acceleration is also known to occur in virtually all makes and models of vehicles, but is more common during the first two years of the car’s lifetime. For this reason, it is important for all drivers to know how to handle a car that suddenly accelerates.
Coping with Sudden Acceleration
A driver that experiences sudden acceleration should immediately put the car in neutral. This is an important first step because no vehicle can accelerate if it is not in gear. If the car does not allow the driver to put it into neutral, he or she should attempt to shut off the engine by removing the key. This may be dangerous since the driver can lose power-steering and brake-assist, but should be used as a last resort. Once the automobile is under control, the driver should shift the car to park and shut off the engine entirely. In most cases, the electronics system will have repaired itself when the engine is reignited.
Reporting Sudden Acceleration
If a driver experiences more than one occasion of sudden acceleration, the automobile should not be driven, even if the car company claims the vehicle to be safe. Every occurrence of sudden acceleration should be reported to local authorities, and the vehicle should be looked at by a qualified and professional mechanic.
Solving the Problem
Automobile companies and governments are actively involved in research with sudden acceleration. While nothing has been done to completely prevent the occurrence from happening, researchers are making great strides in technology that will hopefully terminate this fatal error in automobiles’ electronics systems.