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How to Stop a Vehicle that Accelerates Unexpectedly

Updated on April 14, 2019

Do you know what to do if you are driving and your car suddenly and unexpected accelerates? Here are the top tips to keep in mind as you drive your car for that matter.

Stay Mentally Alert to the Possibility

Obviously you need to stay mentally alert to the possibility that your car may suddenly accelerate. Don’t think it can only happen while you are travelling at a high rate of speed. Incidents have been reported while drivers were merely parking their car, or backing up slowly. Prepare in advance. Rehearse mentally the steps you will take if rapid acceleration occurs when you are driving your car.

Do Not Pump the Brakes

The first inclination would probably be to pump the breaks if travelling at a high rate of speed. Actually that will do nothing but cause you to lose power breaking. Rather than pump the breaks, be prepared to slam on the brakes, ONE time only.

That means pushing the brake pedal down as far as possible and holding your foot on the pedal until the car slows down. Once stopped, simply turn off your car.

If you have ever driven a car without power breaks, you are well aware of how difficult it is to slow the car down under normal conditions. Pumping the brakes will turn an accelerating car into a manual breaking car that is also accelerating - a scarier prospect than having the lone problem of sudden acceleration.

Do Not Turn Off the Engine

Naturally, if you tried pumping the brakes, the next thing your racing mind might attempt is to simply turn off the engine. That’s not a good idea either, because turning the key too much could actually lock the steering wheel making you lose control of your car.

Put the Car in Neutral

Putting the car in neutral reportedly is better than trying to turn the ignition off or attempting to pull out the key. Imagine trying to drive an accelerating car with no power steering or a locked steering wheel. So remember NOT to turn the key in an attempt to turn off the car.

Instead try to apply the brake firmly and at the same time slip the car into neutral in the hope that the car will stop accelerating. The engine will still rev but if it stops you can then simply turn the car off.

How many times have you put your car in neutral? It is not a gear most people rarely use or even remember they have? So the next time you are in your car, practice putting it into neutral, just so you remember how to do it in an emergency.

Of course those of us who have driven stick-shifts, will probably easily recall how to slip a car into neutral as the use of lower gears becomes a habit when the transmission is not an automatic.

Push Start Ignitions

With key-less ignitions, there is nothing to pull out, so the natural tendency would be to pump the start-stop button like you do the brake. Again you don’t want to take that action. Instead apply the brake and push the ignition button for 3 seconds (unfortunately this rule cannot be applied to every car, the driver must read the owner’s manual under what to do in emergencies, to be sure of the procedure for their specific model) the car should then slow down and the driver can regain control. Just don’t forget to apply the brakes firmly, without pumping.

So to conclude remember rapid acceleration can be controlled. Mentally prepare for the possibility by going over the steps outlinned here.

  1. Push the break pedal ONE time.
  2. Slip the car into neutral while applying the break
  3. Once the car stops, turn off the ignition

When All Else Fails

It is horrifying to think that there is still a chance your car will not stop accelerating even if you have remembered and tried all the steps listed above.

Unfortunately that can be the case. In such circumstances the following steps have proven successful

  • Call 911 on your cell. Perhaps a police cruiser will get in front of you and use their driving skills to slow you down.
  • Apply both the brake AND the emergency brake at the same time. It may slow the car down.
  • If possible try to travel up a steep incline of some sort and as soon as the car begins to slow down, try to turn off the ignition.


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