1413 Nhtsa Study

Because of the public interest in SAIs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study of ten vehicle types with above-average SAI complaints. The results of the study, entitled An Examination of Sudden

Acceleration (U.S. Dept. of Transportation, D0T-HS-807-367), were made public in 1989. The following is a summary of the study's findings:

1. A substantial number of SAIs involved accelerator linkages that "hung up" due to a mechanical problem. However, the problem caused the throttle to remain at its last position; it did not cause further acceleration.

2. A few cruise control failures were noted. However, in all cases, application of the brake would cause the cruise control to disengage.

3. Extensive testing of cruise controls in strong electromagnetic fields found no SAI causation.

4. In thousands of SAIs reported to the NHTSA, brake failure occurred in only a handful of cases. Actual brake system failure plays no significant role in SAIs.

5. For most SAIs, the most plausible cause of an open throttle condition while attempting to brake was pedal misapplication, which was perceived by the driver as brake failure.

6. It was hypothesized that the vehicle models with higher frequency SAIs had pedal placement or feel so that the driver could mistake one pedal for another causing pedal misapplication.

7. There were reported incidents where drivers thought they were starting their cars in "park" when they were actually in "neutral." When the driver acted to shift into "reverse," one notch back, the car would be in "drive." Often the selector was broken or unreadable.

8. Recommendations to change pedal placement and design were made to enhance driver recognition of the pedal being applied.

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