Car-braking options deserve a hand

You’ve seen the shattered windows, the busted doors, the smashed in front or side of the house, heard or read about the deadly careening into a crowd, the other fatalities; or arrive at the corner store, you park in front of solid pillars of metal barriers narrower than your car’s width designed to keep you from ramming into their building.

What am I writing about? You probably guessed it by now. You accidentally stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake!

What if: in an area where there are no barriers and you step on the gas instead of the brake? Well, if lucky, you only loudly revved up your engine, frightening the elderly citizen hobbling in front of you to get a loaf of bread or a quart of milk. If you’re unlucky, her shopping days are over and you’ll carry to the grave the guilt and misery. Oh! It was an honest mishap of course. You didn’t mean it. But it happened …

Why is our government and the adjunct safety administration sitting on their duffs about this matter — that the accelerator and the brake are too damn close together and present a very serious safety issue of life and death to the public.

Let’s consider some alternatives: I had a few opportunities to drive a friend to routine examinations at a Veterans’ Hospital. His van was outfitted with hand controls. It took a couple of trips, but I soon got to prefer it in using the feet and legs. There’s a saying “for athletes, the legs are the first to go.” Well, that goes for non-athletes as well. Everything was in my hands — the acceleration, the braking — just took a little squeeze of the fingers. Sweet! I’ve found the hands to be more sensitive and responsive to the controls than the calloused foot where reactions also may be compromised by shoes and boots, while the hands are bare.

But for those that would prefer both actions on the floor … a mister Masuyuki Naruse of Japan has been proposing his concept for a couple of decades: the single action pedal. It’s a device with an accelerator level on this pedal that moves laterally rather than down. The brake is applied upon this same contrivance with the customary downward application, preventing the vehicle from moving and immediately disengaging the lever-accelerator. (Check his idea out on line for a better clarification than I can present).

Another idea is from Sweden by Sven Gustafson. I find his drafting needing practice to employ but may be mastered. As for me, I would want the accelerator in hand and the brake for the foot.

Perhaps, the best choice would be for auto makers to offer all these proposed alternatives to a buyer for a reasonable price increase over the conventional system.

However, with chip technology advancing by leaps and bonds, the mechanics of applying hands or feet may be unnecessary.

Future developments may handle our vehicles for us, while we just go along for the ride. But until then, I’m contacting my representatives to take some action on improving safety on the highways.

Ralph Burke is a Dunkirk resident.

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