Young reality TV star Savannah Chrisley of Chrisley Knows Best was recently seriously injured in a car accident. She is recovering nicely. The connection here is that she reported that the accident occurred when her floor mat got stuck behind the pedals of her car and she looked down to move them.
She used the accident as a call to reconnect with her maker. We’ll use it to speak of floor mat safety.
That’s right, safety. The lowly floor mat can be a massive hazard if it does not fit the car or is not properly installed and secured.
A poor fitting mat can be carelessly placed over the gas pedal itself. A carpeted mat draped over the pedal could easily get snagged between the pedal and the side wall or simply not allow the pedal to return when foot pressure is removed. And if not placed properly beneath the gas pedal, a mat can snag a the pedal while driving if it has slipped too far up the side.
Nearly every vehicle manufactured for the last 15 to 20 years has mounting clips just in front of the seats, front and back. The driver’s location is clearly the most important. Factory-made mats attach to these clips in order to ensure they are placed properly. Many of the more expensive aftermarket mats also use these clips but only if they are made for a specific make and model.
The most common attachment style is simply pressed into place and lock with a snap. Another common style is a hook that needs to be approached from behind. A Nissan we examined used the hook style, but the back side of the mat stuck to the carpet below like Velcro. This made the mat very difficult to position and a user may quit on it. However, that stickiness will likely keep the mats away from the pedals.
You might remember that some years ago Toyota and Lexus were involved in what was a far reaching recall for unintended acceleration. What is not widely realized is the primary fix was to first, raise the gas pedal and second, replace the factory floor mats with new ones cut short of the pedals. The originals needed to be slipped beneath the gas pedal, and unfortunately, they were often simply draped over the pedal itself, something I saw first hand.
To its credit, Toyota never blamed a driver or overzealous car wash employee or anyone else — they simply removed the potential for the problem at a cost exceeding billions of dollars. However, a teaching moment was missed.
So, be vigilant. Stay away from aftermarket mats, particularly long ones that do not attach to the car. If you’re coming out of a car wash, check that the driver’s mat is re-attached — it often isn’t. And when cleaning your own car, be sure to replace the mats properly. They’ll look better and keep you safer as well.
Check out this video on the topic.