Stuck Accelerator Strategies: Consumer Reports Tests Them

October 14, 2009

What do you do if your accelerator pedal does become stuck?

That's what a tragic California accident in August and the ensuing massive ongoing Toyota recall—of floor mats that can wedge the pedal at or near the floor—has people wondering. Enter Consumer Reports, which tested some potential exit strategies at the track and explained them today in a post.

On a number of models, several automakers are phasing in so-called smart-throttle technology, which allows the brake to take precedence over the throttle. CU tested a Mercedes-Benz E350 and Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen and found their smart-throttle technology, which automatically ignores the throttle when the brake pedal is depressed, to work as promised, with the engine simply returning to idle even after the vehicles were braked to a stop.

To study what would happen with vehicles that don't have the smart-throttle safeguards, CU then tested a Toyota Venza and Chevrolet HHR. They tested these at 20 mph and later 60 mph, trying to brake back down to a stop with the gas pedal still floored. Both models had no problem braking from 20 mph back to a stop with a stuck throttle, but from 60 the verdict wasn't so positive—check out CU's post for the full description.

Toyota's diagram showing how to properly install floor mats

Toyota's diagram showing how to properly install floor mats

For more on this issue, read our report on the recall and Toyota's stopgap answer to the issue—involving…zip ties.

But to answer the original question, what to do? Manage priorities in those precious seconds. Don't try to turn off the engine, don't try to lift the accelerator. Shift to neutral, then steer and brake to a safe pullout.

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