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To prevent unintended acceleration, NHTSA proposes new standard

A proposed NHTSA safety standard will require a brake-throttle override system on all vehicles.

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If you press the brake, the car should always stop--even if you're also pressing the gas pedal at the same time. That's the way the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration sees it, and it is proposing new regulations that would require brake-throttle override systems in all new vehicles.

In 2009, Toyota vehicles were recalled after a fatal crash involving a Lexus ES350. All occupants of the Lexus were killed when the driver, a 19-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol, was unable to stop the vehicle when the brake was pressed because the gas pedal became stuck behind an aftermarket floor mat.

This unfortunate "unintended acceleration" scenario is the impetus for the new regulation proposed today by the NHTSA. The new safety standard will require car manufacturers to implement a system that prioritizes braking over acceleration in the event that both the brake and gas pedals are engaged at the same time.

Although Toyota's electronics system wasn't responsible for the unintended acceleration, the company made brake-throttle override a standard feature in all 2011 models. Other manufacturers, including General Motors, are voluntarily following suit.

The new regulation will make that feature mandatory to prevent future fatal accidents, and will outline standards for its testing and efficacy. Because accident tracking data doesn't include information on whether the accelerator was a factor in an crash, it's not clear how many deaths, injuries, or auto accidents this feature will prevent. NHTSA is seeking public feedback on its brake-throttle override proposal. If implemented, the new regulation could require new vehicles to have this feature as soon as September 1, 2014.