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Safety Agency Proposes Brake-Throttle-Override System Requirement

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would like to require all new passenger vehicles be equipped with brake-throttle-override systems. This recommendation is based on recent problems with unintentional acceleration in vehicles with sticky accelerator pedals and electronic throttle control.

How Brake-Throttle-Override Systems Work

A brake-throttle-override system (BTO) allows drivers to come to a complete stop when both the accelerator pedal and brake pedal are pressed. Cars without BTOs, such as those in the Toyota sticky accelerator pedal debacle in 2009, cannot be stopped by the brake when the accelerator pedal is pressed, which often results in motor vehicle accidents.

A BTO allows drivers to brake in several ways. First, the system cuts engine power so the car can no longer accelerate. Then, it allows the brake to override the accelerator pedal so it can stop the car. It also replenishes the brake power vacuum that is depleted in repeated emergency braking. For the driver, this means that pressing on the brakes during unintended acceleration will stop his or her vehicle, impossible in a vehicle without a BTO and with electronic throttle control.

The NHTSA’s Recommendation

Most auto manufacturers already include BTOs with their new vehicles, but the NHTSA’s recommendation would bring all manufacturers up to the same standards. The recommendation would apply to cars, trucks and buses weighing 10,000 pounds or less that also have electronic stability control.

Though there is no data that estimates the impact BTOs will have on the rate of fatalities or injuries caused by unintended acceleration, the NHTSA believes requiring BTOs in all passenger vehicles would have a significant impact on injury and fatality rates.

How to Stop a Runaway Car

The experts at Consumer Reports recommend that drivers in vehicles without BTO systems that experience unintended acceleration complete the following steps. First, put the car into neutral so the engine is no longer pulling the car forward. Then, brake to a stop while avoiding pressing repeatedly on the pedal, since doing so reduces the brake power available to stop the car.

In cars with BTOs, it is not necessary to shift into neutral since the system cuts power to the engine. Drivers of cars with BTOs that experience unintended acceleration are able to press the brakes normally, and pumping on the brakes is not harmful since the BTO also replenishes power to the brakes.

The NHTSA’s BTO recommendation will help prevent the tragic consequences of unintended acceleration. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash with a runaway vehicle, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your rights.

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