How to Handle a Stuck Gas Pedal

Have you seen the harrowing footage of the Kia Sorento that malfunctioned and sped up to 115 mph on a Missouri highway last weekend? The driver, Lauri Ulvestad, managed to dial 911 with one hand and drive her-out-of-control car with other, weaving in and out of highway traffic, avoiding trucks by driving onto the shoulder and speeding through orange-barrel construction zones for more than 45 minutes.

We remember similar stories a few years ago about "runaway car" incidents that ultimately led to a massive recall of Toyota vehicles. While each incident is unique and may require its own unique solution, experts agree on these basic steps to try if you're ever involved in something like this.

  • Even before you drive, make sure the floormat isn't the culprit. See that it is fit properly and does not slide under the accelerator pedal.
  • If you need to stop immediately while driving, the vehicle can be controlled by stepping on the brake pedal with both feet, using firm and steady pressure. Do not pump the brake pedal, as that will deplete the vacuum used for the power brake assist.  
  • Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral position, and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.
  • If you can't put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine off. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.
  • If the vehicle is equipped with an engine start/stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for 1 to 3 seconds in Kia models, at least 3 seconds in Toyota vehicles to turn off the engine. Do not tap the button.
  • If the vehicle is equipped with a key ignition, turn the key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do not remove the key from the ignition, as this will lock the steering wheel.

In Ulvestad's case, these steps didn't work. She couldn't shift the transmission into Neutral, and the brake pedal seemingly didn't work. Ulvestad was finally able to slow and stop her car by lifting up on the accelerator pedal with one foot while simultaneously pressing on the brake with the other foot.

It's scary to think about being involved in something like this, but it's worth it to take the time now to commit these steps to memory.

It's like life insurance: It may be totally unpleasant to even think about it now, but there may come a time when you'll feel grateful for having gone through the discomfort.

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Derrick G

I don't think your 3 seconds statement is very wise. According to this article:

you could be needlessly delaying the shut down. For the record, only TWO seconds are required for the Sorento now.

As for this woman, not only did she have no clue what to do, this car has a brake throttle override, yet in the videos I've seen, brake lights are seen only at the very end, so I have to wonder what kept her from just braking her way to safety.

As for not being able to find Neutral, I'd note this vehicle has a similar layout to the Lexus that crashed in California: the gate position closest to the "N" is actually the up-shift gate for the manumatic transmission. This time we'll be able to find out, hopefully, if there was any trouble with the shift cable and if not, we'll know a new standard is needed.


Just another reason to drive a stick shift.


Derrick....this was a 2011 model year takes 3 seconds to cut engine....evens says it in the owners manual.....and is 1 second really going to make that much of a difference!!....and yes this woman did not know what to do....that's why she called 911.....the operator then told her what to do and that didn't work


Most drivers are stupid and ill-prepared for any kind of anomaly behind the wheel.

Even an automatic can be put in Neutral to disengage the engine from the drive-wheels.

Imagine what these dizzy drivers would do if their vehicle blew a front tire at highway speeds.


Being disparaging of 'most' drivers is unhelpful....sharing information is!


Nevertheless, it's true that putting the transmission in Neutral disconnects the engine from the wheels and is in fact sharing information.

Your comments are not helpful, you twit!


Read the story fully people.....she tried to put the transmission in neutral...that didn't work!!!!!!!!!!!


Matt, I read the story! How can putting a transmission in Neutral NOT work!?

By DOT standards ALL transmissions MUST be able to disengage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's the first thing a person needs to do is to disengage the wheels from the engine.

After I read the story I CHOSE to comment because MOST people are too stupid to disengage the wheels from the engine.


Maybe we just don't yet know all the details about what malfunctioned with Lauri's vehicle. It seems strange that such a new car would have so many simultaneous malfunctions though. 1-Brakes 2-Ignition switch (or push+hold to kill) 3-Stuck transmission/Broken Trans linkage 4-Hanging throttle (anywhere between the pedal, computer, and butterfly). I've never driven a car with an engine that could overpower the brakes. And I've driven some cars with some pretty shot brakes! But if she was dragging the brakes for miles with a stuck throttle, its no big surprise that they were useless. Lauri's brakes were probably overheated, so she'd need to kill the ignition, downshift, or shift to neutral and just let the thing hit the rev limiter.

To me - this story was not investigated enough yet to be published. We don't know enough about this situation to call it "news" just yet.
I do agree with Robert about having manual control over the transmission. And a good old-fashioned ignition key too...


great suggestion, Robert. Everyone with an automatic should immediately convert to a standard trans


Turn on the air conditioner. It will sap power from the engine!


Let's face it the situation was caused by driver error or driver lying or the combo of the two.

Derrick G


The OM on the Kia Tech Info website says longer than 2 seconds, not 3. And at 115 MPH, an additional second could very easily be the difference between life and death.

I still want to know if anything is found wrong with the shift linkage. Perhaps PSAPs should get training material on how to help drivers make sure they're shifting into Neutral on cars with manumatic shift gates and on how to turn off a push-button start car. But people should also know before they get behind the wheel.

Chev Guy

Good thing you would never see this on a GM, just on Japanese CR@P.


Why don't ya just shift it into Neutral, and turn the car off after you'd managed to get off the road?


I'm confused. At the end it says she finally slowed down by LETTING OFF THE ACCELERATOR while simultaneously pressing the brake. Other people have already stated other strange coincidences of this. How could she not engage Neutral? How could she not turn off the engine? How could she not override the gas with the brakes? Every time I hear one of these stories, I doubt their validity. Maybe it is reported badly, but for so many things to suddenly coincidentaly go wrong on a newish vehicle, and then suddenly work a couple minutes afterward.


Ivan, I am also confused. I have owned many vehicles in my 52 years of driving and could always engage neutral, depress the the clutch, cut the ignition, or any combination of those actions in all of them (and had to in a couple of beaters that I owned). I see these needless tragedies as mostly operator error, lack of experience or a combination of both.


Bill, I've got to tell you, this new crop of drivers we have on the road is clue-less!

It is refreshing to see someone of your vintage that still remembers that a driver controls the vehicle, and not the vehicle controlling the driver.

That's what happens when you let the brain-dead loose behind the wheel on our roads.


Chev guy couldn't even identify the difference between a Kia (Korean vehicle) from a Japanese vehicle.
Hopefully he/she can identify how to shift to neutral.

Robert, I am totally with you.
Left foot kick out, and the engine can rev like heck and we can still slow down the car.


Does anyone find it odd that she was talking on the phone at such speeds?? I mean really!!!!!!!!!!!! she gets out of the vehicle and looks like she is holding an I phone to her ear. WOW.

Regarding the start-stop button it varies by make it seems. We're still tracking down some more instances but for the Toyota and Lexus models it was at least 3 seconds. For the Kia models it is between 1 and 3 seconds. We've edited the story above. The variation makes me wonder if there shouldn't be a better fail-safe button or general time. During the Toyota crisis we heard repeatedly from safety experts it was the three second number across the industry. Surprised to see that Kia is different.


Government licensing is worthless.
People don't read instruction/owner's manual.
100% driver error.


Aug 29, 2012 7:41:14 PM
Chev guy couldn't even identify the difference between a Kia (Korean vehicle) from a Japanese vehicle.
Hopefully he/she can identify how to shift to neutral.

Robert, I am totally with you.
Left foot kick out, and the engine can rev like heck and we can still slow down the car."


Chev Guy

Chev Recalls are just Unimportant non safety issues, but real dangerous recals come from Japan who just has all their stuff made in China, you would never find anything Chinise in a GM product it is the only real all americain car.

Chev Guy

What Jared posted was all fake made up for the media benifit we all know that even the so called american brand Chrysler has better quality and reliability then the Toyota, Honda, KIA or any other JApanise pooh.


Shift linkage? Was this trans controlled by the/a computer? If the linkage is not directly connected to the trans (mechanical) and is in fact controlled by a computer...I can see the trans not responding to the driver placing the gear selector into neutral. Absolutely. A button to start/stop engine? Every driver operating such a vehicle should know how to stop engine in case of an emergency while in motion. Computers fail, programs fail, programs left out and programs thought to be not needed during vehicle operation fail. The only good use for a computer in a automobile is engine management.


Why is there so much conjecture about what happened and why has this story become so popular despite an absence of any investigation. This is news without the relevant facts! Shouldn't the Feds (DOT or NTSB)be on the case here? Where is their report about the mechanical/electronic malfunctions. There needs to be a massive recall soon if these Kias are prone to the simultaneous malfunctions were being expected to believe...
Psst... I strongly suspect Lauri being ill-prepared to control her car. Did she pump the brakes repeatedly to bleed off all the vacuum assist? Did she fail to hold the ignition push button for more than 3 seconds? Did she fail to downshift or shift to neutral?


100% driver error.
Her vehicle HAS brake assist.
ONE good stomp on the brakes, and the cars stops, regardless if it has brake/throttle override.
KIA doesn't use electronic transmission interfaces.
Maybe when the KIA K9/'Chorus' comes over, then it will.


I don't mean to be sexist, really, but after asking my wife and mother what they would do in this same situation, I am thinking that maybe women just shouldn't drive.

Here's the solution to this puzzle.
Put the car in neutral, apply the breaks and pull off the road safely. That's it!!!

Unless the car is possessed by satan, it will go into neutral. I highly doubt that this woman tried to put the car in neutral as she has said. If neutral doesn't work and the ignition won't turn off (it promise it will), throw it down to L1. It will drop the car to first gear and will quickly "engine break" down to the first gear redline..should be about 35 MPH...then use the breaks to stop.

My wife said she would jump out of the car, and my mom would try to hold on until it ran out of gas.

ASE Tech

Chev Guy, not too bright are you? ALL cars have had stuck accelerators and/or recalls. Also Kia is a Korean car company made in the US as opposed to a crappy GM made in Mexico.

Also this was definitely operator error, as others pointed out you never see the brakelights, she just wasn't that intelligent (but still smarter than Chev Guy, not that it's saying much) probably scared typical woman driver.


I also believe this is driver error. I tried to floor it and then tapped the break in my 2011 Sorento last night. The acceleration cut-off kicked in and the car promptly stopped. Showed my wife the same thing so she is aware it has this safety feature. Also, we both drove it and shut the engine off, in neutral. No problems there, no steering wheel lock-up.

Honestly this is a driver issue.


I happen to own the 2012 version of the Sorento. After reading and viewing material available on the web, I have some strong suspicions about what happened. Here's my guess.

The driver had the transmission in "manual" mode. This prevents the shift lever from being shifted into Neutral unless the selector is first moved to the right and then forward to Neutral.

I strongly suspect that she had an object of some sort wedged beneath the brake pedal. Further, I suspect the object (a water bottle, tall travel mug, purse, etc.) was wedged in a way that it was also on top of the gas pedal stem. This would prevent the brake from being depressed and, at the same time, would press down on the accelerator when the brake pedal was depressed.

I also suspect that she did not push the start/stop button long enough to kill the engine or that she pushed the climate control button (located to the right of the start/stop button) thinking it was the ignition.

All in all, this scenario accounts for the evidence available. Unlikely? Sure. But more likely than the simultaneous failure of multiple systems for 35 minutes and then suddenly a return to normal operation.

Ike G.

Sounds to me like this woman should not have been allowed behind the wheel.

She is an accident waiting to happen and a life-threatening hazard for everyone around her.

We can't blame ineptitude, incompetence and stupidity on a car.

It's the nut behind the wheel that causes accidents.


Chev Guy: In Europe, Toyota cars are the most reliable cars by statistics. Those Kias and other Korean cars have 7 year full warranty, they can afford it. I was in US few years ago and drive Hyundai Santa Fe for about 2 moths. Well it's generally OK, but it's about twice more expensive here in CZE and I know why. The US model is quite different, the transmission intelligence is ... it's not intelligent at all, the rear mirrors are useless, poor A/C etc, etc ... In US they push the prices too low I thing with those "traditional US" (made in Mexico with China parts) cars like GM etc. I believe those Japan/Korean cars are not as reliable in US as in the rest of the world but still more reliable than "domestic" cars. I rent my car in AVIS, most of the cars was Japanese/Korean ... maybe one Ford and that's it. I believe rental companies know exactly what's the best price/reliability car to rent, don't you think?:)

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