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Dead Foot Leadfoot

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No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to drive!

When the driver of a vehicle is shot, otherwise killed, or rendered unconscious and instantly suffers a muscle spasm that extends the driver's leg, pushing the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. Then instant rigor mortis sets in, keeping it there. Naturally, this causes the vehicle to accelerate to ludicrous speed, putting anyone in the way of this driving dead man at mortal risk.

Common to action movies and driving games. Sometimes justified if the throttle or accelerator is a hand control, and the driver slumps over it, holding it open or down. Subversions may involve the presence of a Dead Man's Switch.

Subtrope of Disposable Pilot. Related to Runaway Train.

Sister Trope to Dead Man Honking.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, Clarisse faints in the driver seat of her car, calling for a Big Damn Hero moment by Lupin to save her from crashing down the cliff. Leads to a Literal Cliffhanger moment.
  • Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star subjects an enemy commander of God's Army to this. Instead of being shot behind the wheel, the villain gets away laughing after seemingly successfully pulling an I Surrender, Suckers on Ken. As it turns out, however, he had already been hit by one of Kenshiro's techniques and was merely undergoing Delayed Causality. He explodes while behind the wheel and his car is seen rolling along until it crashes and explodes.
  • This may have happened in the Fruits Basket manga, when Komaki Nakao's father had a fatal heart attack while driving and accidentally hit Tohru's mother Kyouko with his car.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens in Danger Girl: Trinity #2 when Sydney is ambushed while driving through London. She shoots the driver of the SUV, causing him to slump forward on the accelerator; much to the panic and dismay of his partner. An inevitable crash ensues.
  • Not death but shock induced in Robin when Dury Walker tries to carjack Ives. Ives goes into shock and floors the accelerator, blanking out Tim yelling at him that he can stop now. After he blows through an intersection Tim knocks his foot aside with his own, jerks the car over to the curb and stomps on the brakes before helping Ives and calling the cops.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Variant occurs in the movie Agent for H.A.R.M. (featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000) where Agent Chance shoots the driver, the car continues to drive... into the ocean. A henchmen jumps into the passenger seat but doesn't make any attempt to drive, the dead guy just keeps it going.
  • In Battletruck, a.k.a. Warlords of the 21st Century, the Big Bad kills his driver in a fit of anger, and attempts to take the wheel himself, only to be incapacitated by the main protagonist. The Battletruck ultimately meets its obvious end.
  • Birds of Prey (2020): Happens when Harley knocks out all of the 'Mercedes gang', including the driver. He slumps forward on the steering wheel, with his foot still on the accelerator. The car continues to accelerate until it crashes and explodes.
  • Black Friday (2021): A police car crashes through the storefront, killing one of the survivors and allowing the possessed shoppers to enter the building.
  • Dead Presidents. One of the robbers is fleeing down a dead-end ally from a police car. He shoots the driver, and his partner grabs the wheel to prevent the vehicle crashing. The robber however has nowhere to dodge and gets crushed against the wall at the end of the alley before the policeman can stop the car.
  • District 9. Wikus, in full Powered Armour, manages a headshot on the mercenary driver of a car charging towards him. Somehow, having his head liberally splattered all over the car's interior doesn't stop the Mercenary from putting all of his remaining weight on the pedal, resulting in Wikus getting knocked over by the speeding car.
  • Five Graves to Cairo opens with a single British tank aimlessly trundling across the desert. The reason it is aimlessly trundling is that four of the five crewmen have been overcome by carbon monoxide after the tank's exhaust was damaged in combat, including the tank driver, slumped dead against the controls. Cpl. Bramble, who is the protagonist, makes it out Just in Time.
  • In Forklift Driver Klaus Klaus ends up decapitated by chainsaw, with his forklift still going, and ends up impaling another man, ending with his corpse driving off into the sunset with two impaled screaming workers. Of course the whole thing is meant to be Black Comedy.
  • Coke, the El Train driver in The French Connection.
    • Justified in the same way as Indiana Jones, since it's hand operated.
  • Happens on a bus near the beginning of the film version of The Fugitive as a result of a Gun Struggle between a prisoner and a warden.
  • The bus chase scene in Furious 7, when a Gun Struggle erupts.
  • James Bond
    • In the climax of Thunderball, a dying Largo falls on the controls of his hydrofoil and jams them, forcing Bond & Co. to jump overboard, all so they can end the scene with Stuff Blowing Up when the hydrofoil hits the rocks.
    • Live and Let Die. Bond's driver gets shot with a poison dart that causes exactly this reaction. Of course, it presumably was a special kind of poison with specific plot-related symptoms.
  • Played with in Lethal Weapon. McAllister and his driver escape in a car through an alley, only for the driver to be shot dead by Murtagh. McAllister desperately attempts to take the wheel, but is thwarted when the car is hit by a bus and ultimately destroyed by a live grenade in the back seat.
  • Averted in Lou (2022). Hannah's abusive ex-husband, pretending his car has broken down, asks her current boyfriend for a lift, then attacks him while he's braked at a crossroads. The van only lurches forward slightly, then stops.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road. Max uses the grossly obese People Eater for this after he's shot, who incidentally has an overly-large mutated foot which comes in handy for this trope.
  • A variation occurs in Maverick. Maverick, Annabelle, and Coop are riding a stagecoach, when the driver dies, and the horses, left without input keep running at full speed, straight toward a cliff. The others make Maverick climb up on top to stop the horses, which, since the reins are dragging on the ground, he has to do by jumping onto the team's lead pair and pull back on them.
  • New Police Story had a driver that, when killed, not only slammed on the gas but certainly swerved to maximize damage and drama.
  • In No Country for Old Men, Moss hitches a ride with a bystander. Said bystander is killed at the wheel as Moss watches. Later, he hitches another ride with an entirely different man, who is also killed for his trouble, but that happens long after he was separated from Moss.
  • Pig Hunt: After John shoots the redneck driving the dune buggy with a crossbow bolt, the buggy continues to accelerate away from him until it flips over.
  • The truck driver in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Averted to point of inversion in Raw Deal (1986). Arnold Schwarzenegger headshoots the driver of a dump truck moments before it's about to crush the prefab cabin he's in. The truck comes to a complete stop instantly.
  • It's not detailed whether he died or not, but in Salt Evelyn repeatedly tasers a driver to achieve this same effect.
  • The subway train in the film Speed. The opposite effect of a real deadman's switch, which would stop the train.
    • Inverted when the original bus driver gets shot. Not only doesn't he die, but they have to get a new driver in the seat and keep her from going below 50 (and Keanu hasn't told 'em there's a bomb on the bus yet).
  • The Suicide Squad: When Bloodsport, Flag and Peacemaker stage their escape from the the army transport, Peacemaker uses a shotgun to shot the driver through the wall of the cab. He slides forward in the seat and his knee plants on the accelerator, causing the vehicle to careen out of control.
  • The Subway in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. The fact that there is no preventive measure for such a thing here makes Big Blue's speech about public transportation being the safest way to travel slightly comical.
  • The Town: When the Atlantic armoured car driver attempts to escape from Fenway Park, Doug jams his automatic rifle through the gun port and blazes away. The driver is killed and the armoured car keeps driving and crashes into the police lines.
  • Happens to the limo driver during the Florida Keys action sequence in True Lies.
  • The aviation equivalent happens in Whiteout. The Soviet pilot catches a stray bullet in the back of the head and slumps forward on the control yoke; putting the plane into a nosedive.
  • In Zig Zag (2002), Singer and ZigZag are driving a forklift together at Singer's workplace when Singer passes out with his foot on a pedal, causing the forklift to veer out of control.

  • In Ian Fleming's James Bond short story "Risico" (used fairly faithfully for the bulk of the movie For Your Eyes Only), Bond shoots Kristatos as he's making his getaway after his operation is destroyed... with the Lancia's wheels in the road ruts guiding it and his dead foot on the gas pedal, the car hurtles out of sight into the distance.

     Live Action TV 
  • Sorta happens in 1000 Ways to Die. In case #412 ("Re-Tried"), an old man died behind the wheel of his classic Chrysler during his daily ritual of sitting in the driver's seat and reminiscing about his life. The car's parking brake fails shortly afterward, and it rolls down the street and strikes a bank robber fleeing the scene of one of his crimes, killing him.
  • Racetrack in Battlestar Galactica (2003) gets killed while piloting a Raptor, causing her dead body to hit a missile launch button that adds fuel to an already nightmarish fire.
  • The first episode of FlashForward (2009) did this on the largest scale yet. When the blackout occurs, every driver on the planet falls victim. (Granted, they only fall unconscious for a couple of minutes, but some do not survive the resulting crashes.)
  • House frequently approaches this trope, although the characters usually have become unconscious or lost muscle control. In season 2, for example, two consecutive episodes ("Need to Know" and "Distractions") started with the main patient driving a vehicle and dramatically hitting the accelerator at a key moment from their illnesses.
  • The New Avengers: In "The Deadly Angels", Steed is in a car being driven by one of his friends. A sign is flashed that causes the friend to suffer a fatal heart attack. The car continues to careen along as Steed attempts to steer it to a safe stop.
  • Psych pulls this once with the victim being gassed to death. Luckily, the car is on a dynamometer and is literally going nowhere fast.
  • The driver of a car is disabled by an object falling off of a truck in this episode of Rescue 911 and his car continues driving.

     Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Orks have a table you roll on when a Trukk is destroyed with results ranging from "keeps going for a ways before toppling over" to "zooms off a ways and explodes".

     Video Games 
  • Em, drives the plot of Blast Corps. A nuclear missile carrier is driving across the landscape after a radiation leak kills the crew. Now, the player has to remove any obstacles in its path or a collision will trigger an explosion.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has your character briefly steering a car from the passenger seat because the driver was shot and apparently ragdolled onto the accelerator.
    • Likewise, in Call Of Duty Classic, Soldier of Fortune II, and other games on the id Tech 3 engine, vehicles whose driver has been killed keep driving until they run off the road and crash, or have their engine destroyed.
  • In Company of Heroes, this is what happens to all "killed" vehicles that don't blow up outright, instead going "Out of Control" and aimlessly barging forwards before exploding on contact with the first obstacle. This can lead to an amusing sight of reversing vehicles instantly jerking into forward motion at full speed without as much as a slowdown, as if they bounced off something invisible.
  • How Detective Rindge dies in Ghost Trick, which then causes Lynne's fourth death of the night. Don't worry, you fix it.
  • Happens in Grand Theft Auto IV if the driver of a car is killed. In Grand Theft Auto V, it also happens when the player takes out the pilot of an aircraft when it's in mid-air.
    • Though subverted in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, albeit still a lateral move in terms of realism: killing a driver will cause the car to immediately brake to a screechy stop before ejecting the corpse.
  • Happens in JFK: Reloaded if you kill the limo driver. Sometimes he manages to turn the steering wheel a little bit too, most often resulting in the presidential limo crashing into the side of a building, killing everyone else in the vehicle and tossing their bodies out onto the sidewalk and street.
  • Used in Metal Slug 2 and X (its remake) during the train level where some enemies in motorboats fire missiles at you. Even if you kill the driver, they just slump over on the controls and the attack persists. It isn't until you destroy the boat you get em off your back.
  • Averted in Silent Scope's highway level, where shooting a driver immediately causes the vehicle to spin out and crash.

  • Invoked in Jack, where a woman trapped in her car with a serial killer speeds up, daring her captor to shoot her and chance a crash

     Western Animation 
  • Samurai Jack Episode 7: "Jack and the Three Blind Archers". The archers take out a tank with a robot driver, who collapses onto the control causing the tank to rampage and shoot at the other robots.
  • Star Wars Rebels. In "Rebel Resolve", our heroes jump from a captured AT-ST walker to the Ghost just as the turret blows up. The remains of the walker take a few steps forward and collide with the walker in front, knocking it on its side so it can't fire on the escaping Ghost.
  • The unconscious variant happens in Hey Arnold! The Movie; when the bus driver falls unconscious, his artificial leg keeps the gas pedal depressed, making it much harder for Arnold and friends to control the bus afterward.

     Real Life 
  • A tragic real-life example occurred at the 1977 South African Grand Prix where driver Tom Pryce was killed instantly in a collision with a track marshal and his car continued on driverless for a whole straight before crashing into Jacques Laffite's Ligier on the first corner.
    • And a version in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, with Felipe Massa. He didn't die, but he kept going after the spring had hit him and left him unconscious. Of course since he had been going quite fast before the accident...
  • As aircraft are mostly controlled by an autopilot and usually only have the rudder controlled by foot pedals, falling unconscious won't affect a climbing or cruising plane's ability to fly.
    • This was realised horrifically with the strange case of Helios Airways Flight 522. An error in preparing the plane for the flight meant that the pressurisation switch had been turned off, and wasn't turned on again before the plane took off. As the plane climbed, the crew and virtually everyone else on board (sans one flight attendant who managed to reach a handheld oxygen tank) passed out from a lack of oxygen and low air pressure. The plane continued until it reached Athens, where it proceeded to fly around the city on Autopilot for almost two hours, unable to land because there was no one able to control the plane and carry out the landing sequence, which is always dealt with by the crew. Fighter pilots noticed the flight attendant attempting to control the jet, but with the attendant unable to communicate with the pilots or understand the controls, the plane kept circling the city. In a last ditch attempt, the flight attendant tried to land the plane, but the plane's fuel had ran out, and the aircraft slammed into the ground.
    • The Learjet crash that killed golfer Payne Stewart. The plane took off from Florida and presumably depressurized shortly after. The control tower didn’t get a response shortly after takeoff but it’s not an uncommon thing at that point in flight. It missed its planned turn that would take it toward its Texas destination. The plane continued unguided and followed by various military F-16 aircraft until it ran out of fuel over North Dakota. The F-16 pilots couldn’t see any activity in the cockpit but reported it appeared iced over. The most commonly accepted explanation is that the cabin rapidly decompressed at some point, and the pilots were incapacitated before they could put on their oxygen masks. If this is the case, everyone on that plane was likely dead long before it crashed.
    • The case of the ''Miss Macao'' is a more "traditional" example of this trope. The Consolidated Catalina seaplane was boarded by four armed men who held the passengers and crew at gunpoint. When the passengers refused to hand over their money, one of them shot the pilot, and the weight of his body on the controls sent the plane crashing into the Pearl River Delta. The only survivor was one of the would-be Sky Pirates.
  • Trains these days usually have a dead man's switch that has to be toggled periodically. Falling unconscious on one doesn't work most of the time, although stations did install “Moorgate Stops” after the Moorgate crash as failsafes. These detect a train entering the station at high speed and automatically slow it down enough to avoid major damage. The driver in this case still had his hand on the dead man’s stick so it’s unknown whether he was suicidal or passed out without releasing the stick.
  • The Waterfall rail accident near Sydney, Australia in 2003. The driver suffered a heart attack, and was heavy enough that his foot kept the deadman switch on the floor depressed.
  • Boats with outboard motors normally have a ripcord extending from the engine that the pilot is meant to wear attached to their belt or jacket. If the pilot is thrown from the boat or falls out for any reason, the ripcord will shut off the engine and bring the boat to a stop.
  • This is one possible cause of the Hinton train collision in Canada in 1986. A CN freight train ran a red signal and collided head-on with a passenger train, killing 23 people, including the crew in the engine. While the lead locomotive was equipped with a "dead man's pedal," the subsequent investigation found that it was common practice for CN crew to keep the pedal depressed with a heavy object so they didn't need to keep their feet on it. The engineer was found to have a number of health problems that put him at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. It also didn't help that the crew was also suffering from a severe lack of sleep due to the shifting train schedules. One possible explanation is that the engineer was incapacitated and with the dead man's pedal depressed, the train kept running when it should have stopped. Ironically, the second engine had a newer reset safety control that didn't require engineers to keep their feet on the pedal, but it wasn't used because the cab wasn't as comfortable. After the accident, the railroad industry moved toward these safer controls.


Video Example(s):


Steering the Tank

The tank operator, inadvertently saving Indy from getting crushed to death. In this case it's more realistic because the driver falls forward onto a throttle lever rather than a pedal.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DeadFootLeadfoot

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