Gas Pedal Accidents Caused By More Women Than Men, Study Finds

Although the majority of car accidents - about 60 percent - are caused by men, there is one type of car crash that is statistically dominated by women: accidents where drivers mistakenly hit the gas pedal of their car instead of the brake.

According to a study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and conducted by the Highway Safety Research Center and TransAnalytics LLC, two-thirds of these gas pedal accidents involve female drivers, particularly those who are elderly. During the study, researchers analyzed vehicle collisions in a North Carolina state crash database, hundreds of media reports on gas pedal accidents and a national crash causation study.

In addition to female senior citizens, researchers also found that drivers under 20 years old also have a high rate of these kinds of accidents.

Causes of Gas Pedal Accidents

One of the main reasons that drivers will mistake the gas pedal for the brake, researchers say, can be found between the drivers' ears. As we get older, the areas of the brain that are used for driving - including processes like attention, organization and planning - start to diminish. For drivers under 20, the problem is reversed, as those same areas of the brain have not yet fully developed. In both cases, these drivers lack the executive functioning necessary to make the right decisions when they are behind the wheel.

Distracted driving has been cited as another culprit in gas pedal accidents. Oftentimes drivers are not paying attention to what their feet are doing because they have their minds on things like changing the radio station, checking a recent text message or picking up something from the floor of their vehicle.

Other Study Findings

The NHTSA's research also found that the majority of gas pedal crashes occurred in parking lots, garages and driveways. Researchers surmise that this is because when a driver mistakes the gas pedal for the brake when driving on roadways, the proximity of other vehicles allows enough time to recover from the mistake than there would be in a confined space like a parking lot or a garage.