How to Handle a Stuck Gas Pedal

What to do if your gas pedal gets stuck.

Posted in News

— The story of the runaway Kia Sorento has every driver asking what they would do if their accelerator pedal got stuck.

Iowa resident, Lauri Ulvestad, found herself rocketing down a Missouri highway at speeds of 120 mph from an alleged stuck gas pedal. According to televised interviews, Ulvestad said her 2011 Sorento suddenly started accelerating on its own and for the next 60 miles, the Iowa woman performed amazing driving maneuvers to avoid other vehicles.

Watching her flying down the highway has most of us asking what we should do if it happened to us.

The subject has also been on the minds of government safety regulators who recently proposed that all new passenger vehicles come standard with an override system that would shut everything down if a driver hit the brake and gas pedals at the same time.

The brake-throttle override system would require that input to the brake pedal in a vehicle must have the capability of overriding input to the accelerator pedal. The system is intended to address any type of unintended acceleration, whether caused by a floor mat or mechanical problem.

Much of the federal proposal stems from receiving thousands of complaints about unintended acceleration, including from the massive investigation of Toyota vehicles after a highly publicized accident on August 28, 2009. 

That crash, near San Diego, California, resulted in the deaths of four people. The driver of the Lexus ES350 was a 19-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol who reported the vehicle was accelerating out of control and that using the brakes did no good. Investigators concluded that floor mats had trapped the accelerator pedal and the brake components were destroyed by heat, a clear indication the driver kept applying the brake. There was no way to know if the car had been shut off or put into neutral.

What To Do If Your Car Won't Stop

  • If it's safe to do so, check to make sure your floor mat isn't jamming your pedals. Many cases of unintended acceleration are caused by a floor mat that either pins the accelerator or makes it hard to use the brake.
  • Putting the vehicle in neutral is one step to stop a runaway car. According to safety experts, a driver with unintended acceleration should shift the transmission into neutral.
  • Using the brake is fine as long as you don’t pump the brakes. Doing that can cause the brakes to quickly burn out or lose enough pressure to stop the car, especially if you’re traveling at high speeds.
  • If needed, shut the engine off, but only when the vehicle has slowed down. Killing the engine means killing the power steering, power brakes, etc.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with a push-button start, hold down the button for five seconds to disengage the engine. Once the vehicle is stopped and shut down, call a dealer and have them tow the car for evaluation of the cause.

What Happened in the Case of the Runaway Sorento?

In the case of Lauri Ulvestad, she allegedly did all of the above and still couldn’t get the vehicle to stop. In one televised interview, Ulvestad said her foot wasn’t on the gas pedal, the emergency brake was completely applied, her brake pedal didn’t work, the car wouldn’t shut off, and the gear shifter wouldn’t go into neutral.

However, as shown on the video, her vehicle did finally come to a stop after she lifted the gas pedal and applied the brake.

There can be no determination of what happened in the Ulvestad case until more facts come to light.