Objects lodged under brake pedal can be a safety hazard

The accident at the Valley Point Shopping Centre carpark exit in January, which claimed the lives of two innocent victims, is a tragic incident.

The investigations have pointed to "human error" as a possible cause ("Canal crash: Brakes not applied at hump"; last Tuesday).

The finding that the brakes of the car were not applied as it crossed the final hump of the carpark ramp until the vehicle hit the railing does point to something irregular.

It would be counter-intuitive to drive over a road hump and then continue at high speed without braking.

One possible explanation is that the driver of the vehicle could not depress the brakes in time because there was some kind of obstruction between the brake pedal and the floor of the car. This can often happen, especially if the driver has put on a pair of sandal-type or high-heel footwear.

The heel part of the footwear can easily become loose when the right foot is shifted from the accelerator pedal to the brake pedal, especially when going over a hump. At this point, the heel of the shoe can slip below the brake pedal, creating an obstruction.

Furthermore, if the foot is positioned at an angle, it can also create a situation where the accelerator pedal is also depressed, thereby causing the vehicle to speed up.

When the brake becomes non-functional and the vehicle is speeded up, a lethal combination is created.

Such a danger is even more pronounced in lorries and vans, where there is no physical separation at the feet level between the driver side and the passenger side.

Here, there is a different kind of hazard looming.

Canned or bottled drinks left on the vehicle floor can slide over to the underside of the driver's brake pedal, where it can get lodged when the vehicle is in motion, thereby causing the brakes to be non-operable.

Let us hope motorists will take heed of these issues for a safe and accident-free ride on our roads.

Nadarajan Subhas

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'Objects lodged under brake pedal can be a safety hazard'. Print Edition | Subscribe