• Thanks for the recommendation. I may be absent from the site for another day or two owing to storm-related power outages (no, I still didn’t buy a generator, even though it’s now happened twice in two weeks).

  • One kind of inquiry that I’ve never seen is whether the drivers involved in these incidents use their left foot or their right foot to brake an automatic-shift car. Most people, for reasons I’ve never grasped, use their right foot, a practice that makes it easy to step on the wrong pedal. If you use your right foot on the gas and your left on the brake, it’s almost impossible to make that mistake, and I’d bet that few if any of the “sudden acceleration” incidents involve left-foot brakers. Back when Jeep Cherokees were the suspect car of choice, the car-wash operators instructed their employees to drive with both feet.

  • One reason to use the right foot on the brake is if you learned on a stick shift car, or, like us, have both auto and stick vehicles. Using you left foot on the brake and right foot on the clutch is problematic.

  • I drove only stick shift cars for many years before driving an automatic, and I’ve never had a problem switching, just as I’ve never had a problem changing from foot to hand on the clutch when riding a motorcycle.

  • In my experience driving instructors and license testers strongly discourage using both feet when driving an automatic. I never understood why but thought better of arguing the point.

  • If you use one foot (the right) to drive, if you need to brake removing your foot from the accelerator first will allow a little natural slowing before pressing on the brake.

    It’s always puzzled me how someone can confuse a horizontal pedal with a vertical one. —— |

  • What perturbs me is that I so no one in the media or at the hearings stat the magnitude of the risk 19 deaths since 1992 implies 19 deaths in one hundred million driving years. Even with goosing up the numbers to 56 deaths over 18 years, we get 56 deaths in two hundred million driving years.

    Great article, Mr. Olson. Let’s hope that CNN and others pick up on it.

  • The South Carolina Supreme Court published an opinion in a sudden acceleration case today

    Watson v. Ford Motor Co.


    “We find that the trial court erred in admitting Dr. Anderson’s testimony as to both an alternative feasible design and his EMI theory. With regard to alternative feasible design, Dr. Anderson failed to meet Rule 702’s fundamental requirement that the witness be qualified in the particular area of expertise. Dr. Anderson’s background involved working with massive generators which have entirely different electrical wiring systems and different voltage levels. He had no experience in the automobile industry, never studied a cruise control system, and never designed any component of a cruise control system. Moreover, Respondents failed to show that the substance of his testimony that twisted pair wiring would have cured the EMI defect was reliable. Dr. Anderson declared that the twisted pair wiring would have prevented EMI but did not explain how twisted pair wiring could be incorporated in to a cruise control system and did not offer any model comparison. Furthermore, Dr. Anderson concluded that this design was economically feasible, but offered no evidence to support this conclusion. Thus, his testimony on this matter lacked any scientific basis and contained no indicia of reliability. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court erred in admitting this testimony because Dr. Anderson was not qualified to testify as to alternative designs to the Explorer’s cruise control system and his testimony was not reliable.”

  • […] And in timely news, a specious $18M sudden acceleration verdict (see our August 2006 coverage) was unanimously reversed by the South Carolina Supreme Court after they threw out junk-science testimony theorizing that electromagnetic interference with the cruise control caused the sudden acceleration. Passengers in the crash that wore their seatbelts were uninjured, but the unbelted driver was paralyzed. The plaintiff has the option of a new trial. (Sonya Watson v. Ford Motor Company, h/t L Nettles comment). […]

  • Finally. A little common sense is being applied in the American “junk-judiciary system”!


  • One reason why police and driving instructors urge the use of the same foot for both accelerator and brake is the tendency of people who use different feet to keep the brake pedal very lightly pressed while driving. This apparently causes some damage to the brakes, but more importantly also sends confusing signals to the driver in the car behind. If the brake lights are always alight, then the driver in back is less likely to notice when the driver in front brakes for real.

  • To me, advocacy of left-foot braking falls into the category “If everyone would do what I do, we would have no problem.” In fact most people don’t do it, and still don’t have a problem.

  • Charles Platt:

    “To me, advocacy of left-foot braking falls into the category “If everyone would do what I do, we would have no problem.” In fact most people don’t do it, and still don’t have a problem.”

    I didn’t advocate left-foot braking, although it works for me without causing trouble switching to stick-shift and without riding the brake (just as I don’t ride the clutch). My wife and son are right-foot brakers, and it never occurred to me to suggest that either of them change. My point was that if we had data on what the drivers who experience “sudden acceleration” do, it might help to confirm my belief that most, if not all, of these incidents are caused by driver error. If a lot of those drivers turned out to be left-foot-brakers, it would suggest that there really is a problem with the cars. If none of them were, it might (depending on how many people are lefties) support the opposite conclusion. You might re-read my comment: it was a question about the data and an expression of puzzlement about why so many people brake with their right foot. Nothing there to say that anyone “should do what I do.”

  • […] “Exorcising Toyota’s Demons” […]

  • In addition to knowing how many left foot brakers have accidents, you have to know what percentage of vehicle miles by age are driven by LFBs.

  • For Bill Alexander, I don’t think that is what Alan Gunn is saying. In other words he is talking about troubleshooting, not statistics. If it is found that a few of the incidents in question happened with drivers that can be proven to drive with both feet on an automatic, then that leads to a possible electronics or software problem (at least on the Prius).

    It is easy to determine (and has been, I’m sure) that the brake can put more torque to the wheels than the engine – especially on that anemic little thing. If these people had their feet covering the brake, they would automatically mash it during the incident. Of course there’s a You-tube video right here that explains how to handle this situation better than I ever could, but you may not want to view it at work or in front of your kids.

    It is a good point by Alan. For me, it seems totally weird to drive that way (left foot on the brake), but then I use manual transmissions most of the time.

  • http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=lZ4PtafRB9c

    Not sure why but the link above did not work, but it should.

    That is the report on runaway Toys that ABC should have used!

  • Yeah, sorry TC and others, I looked at the status bar in (below) on my browser, and it showed what I thought was a good link. However, it doesn’t work, as you say.

    Thanks for the correction. Bad Q/A on my part.

  • Not sure why but the link above did not work, but it should.

    It doesn’t work because of a missing “m” in “.com”


    Try that one.

  • Thanks Gitcarver, that must have happened when I moved some text around.

  • NLP has it right on for why we are “supposed” to use right-feet only for both gas and brake. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I have followed in my driving years that have the brake pedal pushed down ever so slightly. I have no idea if they’re stopping or going, but it’s pretty obvious what they’re doing when we’re in traffic and they suddenly go faster while the brake lights are still on! I always trail further behind them, because I have also had people suddenly stop even though they were just speeding up while the brake lights were still on.

    And it is VERY bad for your brakes, they wear out much faster if you’re always on the brake while pushing on the gas. I’m not sure of this, but I have also heard it may not be good for the transmission. And we all know how expensive those are…

  • No problem Mr Lincoln. I just noticed the error and thought I would bring it to light. It was an interesting link, to say the least. 🙂

    My “left foot” braking story goes back many years. I had a manual transmission Toyota Corolla and my parents had a Buick Century with an automatic transmission.

    I was taking my father to the hospital for a checkup in his Century. We accelerated away from the light and while talking to my dad, I depressed the “clutch” to go from second gear to third.

    Of course, the “clutch” I was depressing was the parking brake.

    At least no one was hurt and I still remember the “are you friggin’ stupid?” look from my dad. Thirty years ago…….. and I still remember the “look.”

  • Haha, funny story, Gitcarver. However, my Dad gives me that same look when I go over 50 mph on the highway 😉

    For Sara: Yeah, dang straight it’s bad to be steadily on the brake while moving along. I can see them getting hot fast, but I have not seen this behavior at all myself (the brake lights may not come on even with a little pressure, however, depending on how the switch is adjusted).
    I think these people’s problem is that they want the foot there for a quick reaction, I guess, but then the foot needs a stable place to rest. It’s be better to leave your foot off to the left (no, not on the parking brake!), but then I see most of the advantage of left-foot braking to away.

    It’s fun to use the parking brake only and turn off my lights about 2 houses before mine, to see how the people behind me react to a disappearing car (works better on a night with some moonlight for the sake of one of my small trees).

  • dang

    WAS: “It’s be better….”
    S/B: “It’d be better …”

    WAS: “… left-foot braking to away.”
    S/B: ” … left-foot braking go away.”