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Auto Club Recommends Steps to Slow Down a Vehicle with Unexpected Acceleration Issues; NHTSA Probing New York and San Diego Prius Incidents

(LOS ANGELES, March 10, 2010) – As reports continue to surface about unintended acceleration in vehicles, the Automobile Club of Southern California is recommending that motorists read their vehicle owner’s manual and “think through” emergency scenarios so they can respond as safely as possible if they encounter an unexpected situation.
“Before driving any car, it’s important to know what you would do in the event of an emergency,” said Steve Mazor, manager of the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center.  “Read the owner’s manual, know where your emergency brake is and how to operate it, and also make sure you know how to put the car in neutral gear.  These procedures differ by vehicle model.”
If motorists experience a stuck accelerator pedal while driving any vehicle, AAA recommends the following:
  • Stay calm, but act quickly.
  • Keep looking at the road ahead. Looking away from the road to see what’s wrong with the pedal will greatly increase the chances of a crash.
  • Be sure the foot is completely off the accelerator. Some stuck accelerator crashes have later been found to be the result of an honest mistake—the driver thought he or she was pushing on the brake.  As soon as you are sure you have your foot off of the accelerator, brake firmly, applying strong, steady pressure.  (Do NOT pump the brakes.)
  • Shift the vehicle’s transmission in neutral or, in a vehicle with standard transmission, depress the clutch. Do not turn off the engine until the car has decelerated significantly. Doing so will cause the power assist to steering and braking to disengage and make it difficult or impossible to steer, and harder to brake. Turning the key too far could possibly lock the steering wheel.
  • Steer the car to a safe place and stop, and then turn off the engine. If stopped by the side of a road, turn on emergency flashers and put out flares or reflective triangles. If unable to get the vehicle off the roadway, allow it to come to a stop and turn on emergency flashers. Do not restart the vehicle.
Mazor said that if drivers must turn off their vehicle to stop, they should be careful to turn the ignition just one click, rather than all the way to the off position, to avoid the risk of locking their steering columns. 
Drivers of a runaway car can try calling 911 for assistance, but any activity inside the car that causes someone to take their eyes off the road increases the likelihood of a crash, Mazor warned.
In the most recent news regarding Toyota recalls, investigators from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have arrived in San Diego to join the California Highway Patrol to determine why a 2008 Toyota Prius surged to more than 90 miles per hour on Interstate 8 earlier this week.
Toyota Motor Corp. also dispatched a team of inspectors to find out why the blue Prius suddenly accelerated out of control.  The incident involved an officer from the highway patrol who used the loudspeaker on his car to direct the 61-year-old driver to use emergency and regular brakes, then turn off the car to stop it.  The driver, a real estate agent, was not injured in the incident.
Also this week, the office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, said the congressman had written to the federal highway agency to highlight another local case of sudden acceleration involving a Toyota. Last week, a 2006 Lexus IS 350 owned by an employee of a San Diego dealership failed to slow down until the driver shifted the car into neutral, said Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella. Lexus is expected to inspect the vehicle this week.
In related news, the owner of a black 2005 Prius was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries in New York after her vehicle crashed into a stone wall.  The driver said the car “shot” across the street accelerating on its own.  NHTSA said it’s investigating the suburban N.Y. crash as well.
At least 56 people have died in traffic crashes nationwide where sudden unintended acceleration of Toyotas has been alleged, according to some news analysis of public records, including lawsuits, police reports and NHTSA complaints. NHTSA places the number of fatalities at 52
Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles in the U.S. since last fall for a variety of problems, including floor mats, sticky gas pedals, steering and components.  Toyota drivers may go online to find information regarding Toyota’s recalls at, call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331, or the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at 1-800-255-3987.  Toyota information is at and
Consumers may also call the NHTSA vehicle safety hotline 1-888-327-4236 or file an online safety complaint with NHTSA
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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.