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“It was very, very scary:” Driver concerned after car unintentionally accelerates

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Most people feel pretty safe when they get behind the wheel. But Heather Hankins thinks twice.

"At first when this started to happen, I thought I was imagining it. It was just a split second," Hankins said.

Hankins and her husband noticed their 2008 Hyundai Elantra acting differently.

"During my oil changes at the dealership, I mentioned it. They always said there was nothing wrong and I was fine," Hankins said.

As time passed, the issue got worse. Their car would accelerate when they weren't hitting the gas.

"The gas pedal was going underneath the floor mat and not coming back up. It was getting stuck and it couldn't move," Hankins explained.

The Hankins were concerned. They decided to e-mail Hyundai and send them a video recreating the problem.

"We waited and got no response. We got nothing," Hankins said.

Hankins' concern turned to fear after a trip to Madison.

"I was entering a highway and I got up to the 45 mile-an-hour speed limit and I let go of the gas pedal and I kept going faster and faster and faster and would not stop," Hankins said.

Thinking quickly, Hankins popped up the pedal with her foot and was able to slow down.

"It was very, very scary," Hankins said.

She reached out to Hyundai again.

"I was very concerned about other people that might be having this issue," said Hankins.

Hyundai told her she'd have to pay a diagnostic fee because the warranty expired -- so Hankins turned to FOX6's Contact 6 for help.

"Once Contact 6 got involved, things started moving very quickly. People started to listen and things started to get done," Hankins said.

Hyundai contacted Hankins and investigated the issue for free.

"There was nothing major with it, which is good news," revealed Jim Trainor, the Senior Group Manager for Product Public Relations at Hyundai Motor America.

The company gave Hankins brand new car mats and is paying to have her car detailed.

The automaker says Hankins' issue is rare.

"It's extremely unusual. It had taken years and years with the original floor mats. They got all kind of junked up with salt and, you know, the cold and the moisture and everything else," Trainor explained.

Still, the company admits it's a problem drivers should be aware of.

"There could be a floor mat that's all frozen and salted up and might be on top of the accelerator. I think just about everyone's got to realize that could be an issue. Customers need to be aware — you got to maintain your car." Trainor said.

In a situation like Hankins, knowledge is power.

If your car starts to unintentionally accelerate, try and pop up the pedal like Hankins did. Also, put the car in neutral. This will slow the vehicle down and allow you to pull of to the side of the road.

After that, take it to a dealer and have it looked at. Make sure you ask the dealer any questions you may have and that you are satisfied with their answers.

If you aren't, you can take it a step further and reach out to the automaker for more help.

If you have a safety concern or issue with your vehicle, you can check recalls or file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You can learn more about that by clicking HERE.

12 comments

  • ELS

    I can’t believe this is a story, I can’t believe the woman didn’t just move the floor mat herself, I can’t believe she actually called the manufacturer and complained. It was very nice of them to give her new floor mats, they didn’t have to do that. In all my vehicles I buy new rubber floor mats which I put over the carpeted mats from the dealer, keeps them clean and like new, then you won’t have such a ridiculous problem.

  • Mike Cotts

    This is such a “non” story that I can’t help but believe these people had $$$ in their eyes and that’s why they are making this more than it is.

  • Mark

    How stupid can you be. She herself said it got caught under the floor mat. Clean, move or replace the floor mat you idiot.

  • chris

    I have a problem with my car. In the winter when they put salt on the road it causes my front window view to become obscurred. This is really dangerous when you cannot see out the window (for the liberals out there, this is called sarcasm and I am aware of windshield wipers and fluid).

  • Alleah

    What a dumba**! those floor mats are filthy; caked in what looks like salt and other stuff she dragged in during the winter. Maybe she should clean them and move them away from the pedal. How is it the company’s problem?

  • Kim

    So she already KNEW what was causing the problem, and did nothing to fix it (rocket science – move or clean the floormat), putting herself and everyone else on the road in danger every time she drove the vehicle. She should be charged with reckless use of a motor vehicle, and then taught the magical properties of soap and water!

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