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Family Killed when Car Accelerator Sticks

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A California highway patrol officer and three family members were killed when their car's accelerator stuck and they crashed going 100 mph. A traffic expert tells us what to do if we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.

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Cops say someone in the 2009 Lexus ES 350 called 911 just after 6:30 PM last Friday to report the stuck accelerator. Witnesses said the car was traveling northbound on Route 125 in Santee, CA, when it slammed into the rear end of a Ford Explorer, plowed over a curb, and went through a fence before hitting an embankment and going airborne. It reportedly rolled several times before stopping and bursting into flames in the nearby San Diego River basin, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Mark Saylor, 45; his wife, Cleofe, 45; his daughter, Mahala, 13; and his brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella, 38, were all killed in the crash, according to the CHP.

The car he was driving was a loaner car from a local car dealership, as Saylor had recently dropped off his regular vehicle for servicing.

Toyota, which makes Lexus cars, had recalled the "all-weather" floor mats in its 2008 version of that car model because of complaints about them sliding forward and jamming the accelerator. A sales manager at the dealership said he wasn't sure which mats were in the Lexus loaned to Saylor.

Toyota issued a statement saying the company is deeply sorry to hear about the Saylor incident.

"We are unable to comment on this tragic accident until all the facts are known," the statement said. "It is important to avoid speculation and allow any investigation to run its course."

What should we do if this ever happens to us? We called our friend Mr. Traffic, a.k.a. Kenny Morse, for guidance.

"Knowing what to do in the unlikely case of a gas pedal sticking might save your life," he says. "First of all, this happens rarely, but if you keep your wits about you and do not panic, it can make all the difference."

Mark Saylor

Here are his top tips:

• First, try to hit the pedal to make sure nothing is forcing it down.

• Next, PUT THE CAR IN NEUTRAL IMMEDIATELY, and gently start to brake, being aware of the traffic around you, and pull the car to the side of the street or road as soon as possible.

• The last resort is turning off the ignition, but you have to make sure that you do not lock the steering wheel. You will lose your power in the brakes and steering. DO NOT try to drive the vehicle, as it will rev the engine to a dangerous level.

"Knowing what to do in a potential emergency is what makes a driver a driver," Morse says. "Anyone can step on the gas and go straight, but do you know how to avoid a collision, or something like this?"

For more on how to deal with emergency situations, check out www.mrtraffic.com.


next: Surviving Captivity: Stockholm Syndrome
136 comments so far | Post a comment now
maeby September 1, 2009, 5:37 PM

great advice, thanks for sharing.

Jen September 1, 2009, 6:07 PM

very tragic, and some good advice

mary September 1, 2009, 9:16 PM

I live about 2 blocks from where this happened. Its such a tragic outcome. Several people we know were there when it happened as the area is the main exits to get into Santee from coming home from work. My heart goes out to this family and my prayers are with them. From what we have heard, He had tried everything that was suggested in the article and it all failed. Its going to be really interesting to see what the outcome of this whole thing is.

Brittany September 30, 2009, 7:36 PM

Sad dtory and the audio of the phone call makes it all the more chilling. But I seriously doubt that anyone KNOWS what he did to stop the car. The only witness we have to what happened is the 911 phone call and that doesnt tell us anything. In a situation like this the mind goes int a panic.

Alex October 8, 2009, 9:20 PM

The phone call sounds like it was faked. Listen to the ending.

I work on and test drive these cars daily and I think it was more due to panic and driver error more than anything.


“Its sad that Four people lost there lives on the road”

Jon October 9, 2009, 9:14 PM

Something that would just about never happen in the UK - the vast majority of our cars are manual (stick-shift). If the accellerator jams, the instant reaction would be to brake, which in a manual would also disconnect the engine.

Okay, an automatic can be put into neutral - but it’s not a normal reaction in a moving car, whereas dumping the clutch is instinctive.

Not so much a comment on the country, more on the cars - but it’s an un-necessary tragedy.

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