How To Deal With Sudden Acceleration When Driving

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

While fairly rare, one of the scariest mechanical issues you can suffer with a car is that of unexpected acceleration, or even a lack of acceleration when you expect normal performance.

There have been some instances in recent years where car manufacturers have had to recall certain models of cars due to reports of unexpected acceleration.

It’s incredibly dangerous, and while not common, other mechanical issues may lead to cars accelerating against the driver’s intentions.

Cruise control mechanisms have also been reported in some cases to have malfunctioned causing acceleration either at a constant or increased speed.

To suddenly be sat in a car which is accelerating without your input is incredibly scary – terrifying even.

Regardless of which type of road you find yourself travelling on, it creates genuine dangers both to yourself, your passengers and other motorists or pedestrians.

You’ll also probably find yourself in a real panic, not knowing immediately how to react and what to do to bring the car to a safe stop.

The key is to know how to react in these scenarios – what steps you can take to lessen the risk and bring the car back under control as soon as possible to avoid potential collisions.

What You Will Learn

This guide will take you through some of the advice which will help you to manage a situation in which your vehicle accelerates without your knowledge or input.

Obviously, if this happens to you then you’re not going to have time in the moment to read any information, so it’s important to read about subjects like this as a general knowledge and preparation piece.

To make sure we stay consistent with our other guides, we have split this up in to the following sections:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

Dealing With Sudden & Unexpected Acceleration:

Firstly, let’s look at possibly the scariest scenario – your car begins increasing acceleration without any input from you.

You may be at a junction, on a country road or even on a fast-moving motorway.

Each scenario is equally as stressful to manage.

  • The first step must always be to try your brakes. Depending on the situation, first try gently pushing your breaks to see if that slows the car down or knocks the accelerator off again. If you’re in an immediately dangerous situation, then apply the brakes at full force and try to complete an emergency stop.
  • If possible, bring the car to a stop and pull over to the side of the road out of harm’s way. Take the car out of gear and put it in neutral.
  • Apply the handbrake and turn off the engine.
  • Put the hazards on.
  • Call your breakdown service.

If You Can’t Stop The Vehicle Immediately:

If you’re not able to pull the car over using the above mechanism, then the following steps will need to be used.

  • While brakes can overpower an engine, if the accelerator is effectively stuck down, you’re going to need to prevent the car from being able to accelerate. To do this, put the car into neutral by removing it from gear. This means the car can no longer accelerate.
  • If possible, bring the car to a stop and pull over to the side of the road out of harm’s way.
  • Apply the handbrake and turn off the engine.
  • Put the hazards on.
  • Call your breakdown service.

Dealing With A Sudden Loss Of Acceleration:

Depending on where and when it occurs, dealing with a sudden loss in acceleration is also both dangerous and worrying.

Keep calm, and follow these steps:

  • If safe to do so, indicate and begin to pull the car over out of the flow of traffic.
  • If you’re on a motorway, this may be harder to do but it’s crucial that you do it as quickly as possible to avoid being stranded in the driving lanes where vehicles move at dangerously high speed.
  • Once pulled over, apply the handbrake, put the car in neutral.
  • Call your breakdown service.

Hints & Tips

Occasionally, it may be that none of the steps outlined in this guide allow you to stop the car accelerating uncontrollably.

If that occurs, then the best course of action to take is to turn the engine off when it is safe to do so.

This prevents the car being able to accelerate at all but beware that it also makes the car much harder to manoeuvre (e.g. power steering will no longer work when the engine is turned off).

Useful Information

While you may not think that this terrifying scenario is one that you can prepare for, it actually is and could be hugely beneficial to do so.

Find a large, open and unobstructed area (e.g. an empty car park) and simulate the unexpected acceleration scenario.

You can try accelerating hard and even holding the accelerator while braking to try and see how it feels to pull the car over against its will.

On the opposite side, you could try suddenly pulling the car over without any acceleration at all to simulate what happens when you lose the ability to accelerate.

As with everything in life, practice makes perfect, so trying these different techniques out in a safe environment may one day come back to be incredibly beneficial.

Final Thoughts

Like with many emergency situations on the road, it’s important to try and remain as calm as possible.

Doing this helps you think more clearly and as such gives you a much better chance of being able to successfully bring the situation to a safe conclusion.

Along with this article, it’s also useful to read about how to deal with a breakdown.

This will cover the next steps you need to take once you have brought the car to a safe stop.

Further Resources