Bad Design Diary: E-Brake Pedal

This is an example of when bad design can actually be life-threateningly dangerous. When functionality and design aren’t tested properly through usability tests and just plain standing-back-and-looking-at-it, then this is what you end up with. This is from my van – a Honda Odyssey. And every single time I get into the van wearing jeans, I experience this issue. And it’s not only when I get into the van. It’s when I’m driving. I’ll move my foot, and my jeans leg slips right over the e-brake pedal. This keeps me from being able to move my left foot until I reach down and pull up the pant leg.

Of course it would be worse for something to catch your right leg, but I do use my left foot occasionally for braking. Sometimes it’s more practical and a lot less work – especially in traffic. This, friends, is dangerous. Let’s have a look at a collage. Here you’ll see a picture of my foot beside the pedal and then caught on the pedal.

The thing about this design problem is that the pedal simply does not need to be that accessible. Most people never use the emergency brake on an automatic. Of course it’s used constantly with manual transmission vehicles. But most of the time those are pull handles up on the console. There’s just really no reason this pedal can’t be hidden up under the dash a little better. My suggestion in this case would even be to have a small flap of the dash plastic be nicely labeled instructing me to pull it up on its hinge so my foot can access the pedal.

Also, this design problem might have been resolved in later models of this vehicle. But I know it’s still a problem on mine. So I think maybe when you’re designing a vehicle, you should get all kinds of people in all kinds of situations to drive it all kinds of ways. This could have been caught in the first fifteen minutes of usability testing.

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