Driver jumps from runaway SUV

November 17, 2012
Ronda Tennis escaped unharmed after jumping from her sport utility vehicle after the driver’s side floor mat became entangled with the pedals Saturday. The SUV came to rest in a ditch along Interstate 70. - Linda Metz / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Ronda Tennis of East Washington never imagined the simple act of cleaning her vehicle’s floor mats could potentially cause her serious injury or even death.

But, she believes it now after she had to jump out of her sport utility vehicle Saturday morning when it sped out her driveway after the driver’s side floor mat became entangled around the brake and gas pedals.

Tennis, 45, of 705 E. Beau St., was planning nothing more than to take a large box to a friend’s house about 10 a.m. Too large for her car, Tennis decided to take her SUV instead.

As she was pulling out of her driveway, which sits along her home high on a slope overlooking the Interstate 70 exit ramp, Tennis applied her brakes.

“It just took off,” she said.

The vehicle narrowly missed a metal flagpole in her front-yard flower garden, crashed through a wooden fence and a row of hedges, traveled between two large trees, crossed what is normally a busy East Beau Street, struck a guardrail and went over a hill, coming to rest in a grassy ditch along I-70.

As the vehicle closed on a row of hedges and two large trees and neared East Beau, Tennis said she jumped out of the vehicle that speedily continued on its way.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to die,’” Tennis said. “But, I got up, and I was OK.”

Police were called to the scene by a motorist who saw the runaway vehicle.

Tennis, who suffered only minor injuries from her jump, said she initially didn’t know what caused the incident. But, after going to retrieve the vehicle, she figured out what had happened.

According to Tennis, she had earlier removed the rubber floor mats from the vehicle to clean them. When she put the mats back in, Tennis said she had the mat under the brake but over the gas pedal.

“So, when I hit the brake, the car accelerated,” she said.

Tennis said she suffered only bruising from her jump, and that her SUV only sustained minor damages.

“It’s just a miracle that the car didn’t hit a tree or another vehicle,” she said. “It could have been a disaster.”

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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