Hitting the Wrong Pedal

Witnesses said it sounded like a bomb going off.

The sound they heard was no bomb. It was a 76-year-old woman driving her Toyota Camry through the glass entrance of a Publix supermarket in Palm Coast, Fla., on Saturday, April 14.

Store cameras caught video of the car coming from the parking lot, crashing in through the windows, sending a baby carriage — and its three-month-old occupant — flying, and hitting other people before coming to rest on top of an 83-year-old man.

News reports said the driver mistakenly hit her car’s gas pedal instead of the brake.

The Publix accident occurred just one day after a new report [PDF] from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) spotlighting the problem of pedal confusion made headlines.

The Associated Press announced the report, noting:

Accidents in which drivers mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brake tend to involve older female drivers in parking lots, a new government study has found.

One of the study’s most striking and consistent findings was that nearly two-thirds of drivers who had such accidents were female. When looking at all crashes, the reverse is true — about 60 percent of drivers involved in crashes are male, the [NHTSA] study noted. Another finding: Gas pedal accidents tend to occur more frequently among drivers over age 76 and under age 20.

While the prominent role of pedal confusion comes as no surprise to anyone tracking media accounts of vehicle-into-building accidents, the report’s spotlighting women drivers is nonetheless provocative. I hope that rather than inciting finger pointing, NHTSA’s work leads both to greater awareness and to a better understanding of why drivers of either gender or any age mistake the gas pedal for the brake.

Have you encountered such accidents in your own parking facility? Did they result in any changes in how you configure spaces or keep cars and pedestrians safely separated?

About Mark Wright

Mark Wright is principal of Mark Wright Communications, LLC and serves on IPI’s Safety and Security Committee.

Comments

  1. Keith Ehrensing says:

    There are suggestions that pedal confusion might be a design issue. Any studies or information regarding that possibility?

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