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Brake Overrides To Be Offered in Many New Cars, Drivers Still Need to Know How to Handle Cars in Emergency

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The revelations caused by a recall of more than one million Toyota-manufactured cars have led to several automakers to introduce "brake overrides" for their cars, beginning in the next 12 to 24 months.

The device works by cutting the throttle, and concurrently the gas pedal, when the brake pedal is pushed. Engineers say that the device will keep problems now termed "unintended acceleration" from occuring. Toyota cars as well as several hybrids from Ford, Mercury and others have been cited for continuing to accelerate even while the brakes are depressed.

In response, Mazda announced that all new cars would be updated with brake overrides beginning in 2011, with the new-to-U.S.-drivers Mazda2 subcompact being their first model equipped with the feature. General Motors has likewise made plans for cars in the Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick lines to have brake overrides no later than 2012. Federal legislation could extend that to all cars produced for sale in the United States within the next three to five years.

While Toyota is updating its software and providing fixes to accomplish the same goal, graduates of defensive driving courses and other classes at traffic schools recognize that technology may not solve all of the problems listed in motorist complaints.

For example, both BMW and Car and Driver have done tests that find that cars that are operated at wide-open throttle can still be brought to a full-stop, although the distances are greater than those of cars where only the brake pedal is being used. The BMW engineers have also noted that the brakes on all of their vehicles are more powerful than their engines.

That puts more of the onus on drivers to recognize what to do in panic situations where the car is not operating properly. Both automatic and manual transmission vehicles can be placed into neutral to disconnect the engine from the wheels, and brakes will generally overpower any car's engine.

However, many people may not remember some of these scenarios if they haven't recently been to traffic school for violations, and still others may not see the value in such training. However, "unintended acceleration" is likely to be an ongoing concern even as automakers make the fixes to their vehicles.

The idea of traffic school without the need for reducing points on one's license may also be strengthened by the fact that there have been pushes for new legislation in a variety of driving-related areas. For example, President Obama has restricted the use of cell phones by drivers on interstate trips as well as many federal employees. Similarly, many states have been increasing regulations against cell phone use and especially texting while driving.

It may not seem like a online defensive driving school is really necessary, but when the alternative could be hundreds of dollars in fines because of laws that were recently created, the right choice just might be to sign up for an option that allows for reviewing new restrictions at home.