The Toyota unintended acceleration debacle has lawmakers pondering ways to keep our highways safe from flaming death. Most obvious is mandating a brake override system on all new cars sold in the United States, currently under consideration by the FHTSA. Just in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past six months and haven’t heard about brake override systems, they eliminate throttle any time the brake is applied. Put another way, the brake pedal takes priority over the accelerator whenever it is depressed.
In theory, and for the average driver, this is a good thing as it provides one more failsafe to prevent unintended acceleration. If the throttle is closed, even at high speeds, a vehicle’s brakes are capable of stopping the car.
So why is added safety a bad thing? Because by installing brake override systems, you eliminate a driver’s ability to brake stand and launch a car, heel and toe shift and even dry the brakes under throttle in the rain or snow. Is this a big deal? It depends on your perspective.
As a former racer and instructor, there are many times when I’m on the brake and gas simultaneously. My heel-toe technique sucks, but I’ll often drag the brakes to scrub the rotors clean or dry them in the rain. Even braking for a corner, my transition from brake to to gas before downshifting is fast; will a brake override system introduce a lag?
I’ve driven cars with such systems, and they’re fine for transportation. They’re not particularly entertaining and wouldn’t do on a race track. As someone who knows how to drive, I take offense at mandating safety regulations aimed to protect those with limited driving skills. It seems to me that cars don’t need to be safer, drivers do.