If the above video seems outlandish … well, it’s not. Although stuck gas pedals are not the most common problem in cars, they can occur, and when they do, it can be terrifying for both those behind the wheel and those on the road with a car potentially out of control. Auto insurance companies would also love for their drivers to avoid these instances.
But how does this happen? How often does it happen? And if it happens to you, how do you stop it?
How Often Does It Happen?
The good news here is that this doesn’t happen very often, or at least not as often as other risks on the road. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration, vehicle malfunction only accounted for nine percent of all crashes, fatal or non-fatal. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take this seriously. After all, you never know when you’re going to beat the odds and be one of those nine percent. But fortunately, there are easy ways to stay out of that nine percent.
What Causes It?
As for what causes these malfunctions, there are several different ways it can happen. First, the cruise control cable can break and stick the throttle in a constantly open position. Secondly, a screw on the throttle arm can loosen and jam the throttle body. Thirdly, the butterfly valve in the throttle body can become caked with carbon, making it difficult to close. Fourth, cold weather can cause the throttle body to seize, although this is becoming more and more rare.
How to Avoid It
As you might have guessed, reading the above, the key to keeping your throttle working properly, instead of deciding to do what it wants, is to take your car in for regular maintenance and follow the maintenance schedule. Many stuck pedals happen on used cars that may not have the best repair history, or may have just had the minimum done to them. Similarly, there are warning signs. For example, if the cruise control doesn’t work, or stops working, you should take your car to the shop immediately. If you’re noticing problems in cold weather, talk to your mechanic about repairs.
Or, if you don’t want to fool around with any of that, take your car to the shop and install a throttle override system. It’s a safety feature that does exactly what it says it does: If you stomp on the brake, even if the throttle is fully open, your car will brake. It actually comes standard on new Hyundais, and many model year 2010 BMW, Chrysler, GM and Mercedes cars also have it as standard equipment. In fact, the government is considering making it mandatory on all cars as we speak.
If It Happens to You…
Let’s say today is your unlucky day. First, don’t turn off your engine. That kills power to your steering and may make braking more difficult. Turn on your emergency lights and hit the horn to alert other drivers, while putting your car into neutral. Next, try to pull to the side of the road while braking, keeping the horn on and leaving the hazards on the entire time. Aim for a spot that’s as safe as possible. Do not attempt to cross traffic, and turn if necessary to keep with the flow. Once fully stopped, turn off the engine and contact roadside assistance.
It’s scary, but if you keep your car maintained and keep your wits about you, you can handle it. Just remember that, and your throttle won’t be a problem.