Auto transmission drives without foot on the pedal. Why is this still an issue?

A car with an automatic transmission will continue to move even when your foot is not on the gas. This can lead to an embarrassing or dangerous situation if you get out of your car while it’s still in D and drives away when you’re half in and half out.

A common example is when you’re stopping at the mailbox. You exit the car and have one foot on the ground and the other on the brake. When your foot comes off the brake, the car begins to drive forward. With one foot in the car and the other outside, it would be easy to fall and get run over by your own car.

Why is this still allowed to happen? A manual car doesn’t have this same risk. If it’s left in gear it will immediately stall out. And even if you leave an auto or manual in neutral and it starts to roll, it will be much easer to stop without power of the engine pushing it forward.

Technically, I understand why the transmission self-propels, but I don’t understand why they haven’t come up a way to prevent it. We live in such a litigious society, I would think the car makers would have been sued many times over this from people being hurt or killed by self-propelling cars.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but WHY would one even partly exit a vehicle with the transmission engaged in drive?

If only there was a way to park an automatic. If only.

It is not guaranteed that if you take your foot off the clutch of a manual transmission it will immediately kill the engine. Odds are very good, but AKAIK there is no safety interlock to make certain it happens.

And if you park your manual car on a slope and walk away without engaging the parking brake, it will roll downhill of the slope is steep enough. Why is this allowed either?

So your complaint is that when a vehicle operator deliberately introduces several risk factors - seat belt off, car door open, transmission in drive, one foot out the door with half your weight on it - a hazardous situation is created?

IME, this is not a common situation; most people I know would not elect to put themselves in such a scenario. They would either drive close enough to the mailbox to reach it through the window without opening the door, or they would park (with the transmission in “PARK”) far enough away so that they could completely exit the vehicle and walk to the mailbox.

Because creating a mechanism to prevent it from happening would add cost, and would not add value, i.e. most car owners would not be willing to pay the added cost.

Evidently not. I’m sure that at some point there was a car owner who did all the things you describe, got hurt, and attempted to sue - and was torn to legal shreds by the manufacturer’s legal team.

Well, one could say maybe it’s a matter of perspective, yours being that stalling out at a stop is the desired behavior. Perhaps the other opinion is that not stalling and remaining in-gear, ready to go is an improvement on the limitations of the previous technology, as is the ability to “self-propel,” ie. move forward at a very low speed ready to either stop or accelerate as needed/desired. Perhaps this view also sees “Drive” as a clear enough indicator of what the car is currently configured to do, ie. not a good time to jump out for a quick stroll…?

We did. It’s called “Put the gear selector in ‘P’.” Or “Apply the parking brake.”

It’s the year 2016. Anybody with a driver’s license knows the car will creep forward if you’re not pressing the brake. And it’s FMVSS requirement that the car display warnings and play warning chimes if you try to exit the vehicle with the transmission not in “Park.”

Not at all. I’m not saying they did this deliberately. I’m saying they momentarily got distracted and forgot to put the car into park. Then, mistakenly thinking the car was in park, they exit the vehicle and the car begins to drive away.

At a minimum, I would think they could easily add a bell for when you open your door with your car in park. Many cars often have a bell anyway when turn your car off and have the keys still in the ignition when you open the door. It seems like the cost would be negligible to also ring the bell when the car is in gear and the door is opened.

I believe many cars will already chime and display a “door ajar” alarm light if you open the door while the car is in drive.

I agree; something needs to be done about this. Far too many people are being killed while checking the mail these days! First we had to worry about mail carriers going postal. Then there were anthrax letters. Now your car drives over you. Seems you just can’t win with the mail.

Unfortunately there’s often no way to make a car idiot proof. Not without introducing other issues as a side effect, anyway. I personally like the fact that there’s still a little power applied to the drive wheels. It makes it much easier to get your car freed from the mud/snow on a slight uphill incline when you have a second vehicle to push with but not a second driver. Also driving your car into the lake is more convenient since you don’t have to drive around and find a neutral-friendly boat ramp.

Drivers routinely ignore bells now, I’m not sure this would have the desired effect. My car will sound an alarm when the car is moving and the seat belt is unbuckled, which should pretty much accomplish the same thing.

The fact is, cars are designed to move forward (or backward) when the gearbox is engaged. This happens on all cars, although manuals usually stall out there’s no guarantee that they will. It’s kind of the definition of being in gear.

Do you hear that sound, the sound of a running car? Consider that your bell.

Isnt that called ‘inching’ when u let of the brake and the cars slowly creeps forward. To me, thats a desirable behavior, esp in bad weather or hooking, or backing up a trailer. I feel it gives me more control be having my foot hover above the brake when backing a trailer in the garage…

My 2005 Malibu doesn’t even let you remove the key from the ignition if you’re not in Park.

The driver will notice the mistake as soon as he takes his foot off the brake - because the car will start to move forward.

Neither does my 1997 Contour.

Ho ho, hardy har, har! That shit cracked me up right there! In fact, I’m probably still chuckling.


I am sorry that you recently got out of your car while forgetting to put it in Park. I hope you and your car are both OK.


My car has a floor selector that has free movement between D and N, so when I get to a stoplight, I slide the lever forward. Because I would rather not have the brakes trying to overcome the engine to get me to a stop, and because I do not want the pressure of my foot on the brake the only thing keeping me from going forward. My best friend was sitting at a light when a guy blew it coming the other way, slammed into a car crossing the intersection and shoved that car hard into hers. Naturally, her foot bounced off the brake and her car started to move into the intersection. Perhaps, in ten years, the newer cars will sense when moving would be contraindicated.