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NHTSA Proposes Requiring Brake Override Systems on New Cars

Spurred on by safety advocates, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently proposed regulations that would require automobile manufacturers to require brake override systems in all new vehicles.

The new proposal is partially in response to a car accident in which four people were tragically killed when an off-duty California Highway patrolman could not stop a Lexus that he borrowed. The reason: the accelerator pad got stuck because of the floor mat. This incident resulted in a recall of Toyota vehicles in 2009.

The proposed regulation would require automobile manufacturers to include a brake-throttle override system in all vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less-which comprise all passenger vehicles. The system works by stopping the vehicle if it detects that the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed at the same time.

"By updating our safety standards, we're helping give drivers peace of mind that their brakes will work even if the gas pedal is stuck down while the driver is trying to brake," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "America's drivers should feel confident that anytime they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles - especially in the event of an emergency."

If made final, the regulations would require all new vehicles to have the brake override system no earlier than September 2014. In addition, the NHTSA is considering requiring an alert system to let the driver know if the override system is engaged.

Trade groups representing automobile manufacturers have generally supported making the brake override system mandatory. As many new cars already have the necessary software installed, the cost of adding the system would be minimal.

Source: The Detroit News, "NHTSA proposes making brake-override standard," David Shepardson, April 13, 2012

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