NHTSA study investigates causes of unintended acceleration

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An NHTSA study has found that wrecks caused by unintended are usually caused by driver error. Photo Credit: MrFish/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

A study, commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has found older women are the usual suspects in accidents involving unintended acceleration. The study asserts that the usual cause of the phenomenon is mistakenly pressing the accelerator pedal.

Driver error

After the recall and investigation into unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, the phenomenon of unintended acceleration was on the minds of legislators, car companies and researchers, as well as the public.

However, according to MSNBC, research by NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested, though did not conclude, that driver error was a factor in some incidents of the Toyota unintended acceleration affair.

A recently released study commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found driver error was the primary cause of more than 60 percent of accidents involving unintended acceleration. The study only looked at crashes involving unintended acceleration; it was not related specifically to the Toyota case.

Beware parking lots and driveways

The study was done by the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina and by Pennsylvania-based research firm TransAnalytics. The study looked at data from 2,400 crashes involving unintended acceleration, 900 news reports involving a car that accelerated accidentally and some other sources. The most common cause of an accident was a misapplication of the gas pedal, or in other words stepping on the gas instead of the brake pedal.

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Among other findings was that most drivers who experienced unintended acceleration due to mistakenly stepping on the gas pedal were younger than 21 or older than 75. Few incidents were reported between those age groups. According to the Daily Mail, more than 60 percent were female. Women 76 or older represented 40 percent of those crashes . The most common locations for such accidents were parking lots and driveways.

A possible reason, according to the study, is that executive functions — brain processes that plan, organize and pay attention — decline in the elderly and aren’t fully formed in young adults. People under 21 and over 75 years of age often score lower on executive function tests.

Brake override suggested

The study’s authors suggested that part of the reason fewer accidents occur on motorways as opposed to parking lots and driveways is that drivers have more time to react while on a freeway, if they mistakenly apply the accelerator pedal instead of the brake.

It has been widely reported that the government probe into the Toyota sudden acceleration phenomenon has been closed and that, according to Businessweek, lawmakers have suggested a mandatory brake override to further curb cases of unintended acceleration. It isn’t known how many cases of a randomly accelerating Toyota were due to driver error or mechanical or electrical fault, however.



Daily Mail


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