Don’t be stupid like me.
Here I am, driving down a major thoroughfare in Portland, Maine at about 50 mph. Moments before, coffee from my overfilled cup has spilled into the recessed area where the electronic parking brake is handily located. Although overfilling my cup was dumb, it’s also kind of dumb that this recessed area is right beside the cup holder.
Without thinking, I reach for a couple of napkins to soak up the spill.
Before I can figure out what has happened, the Tiguan has come to a screaming halt in the middle of the lane—so fast that I can’t even get out of the lane before coming to a stop. I have, of course, unwittingly engaged the parking brake at 50 mph.
The Tig is now stopped in the lane—and I can’t get it going again. The engine is running; my seatbelt is still fastened (another stupid feature of the car), but the vehicle won’t release the brake as I try in a panic to get going again before I get rear-ended. I finally start madly clicking the e-brake button again; this releases the brakes.
(Note that the manual says “in order to cancel the braking maneuver, release the brake or accelerate.” This was not the case with this incident. I was madly trying to get away in first gear—stick shift—and the brake would not release. I had to press the button again.)
I was in luck. There had been no traffic directly behind me. Had there been, I have no doubt that I would have been rear-ended by one or more vehicles (or a motorcycle, god forbid).
As noted above, this was a dumb move on my part. I shouldn’t have spilled the coffee, I shouldn’t have tried to sop up the spill while driving, and I should have more clearly understood what happens if the parking brake switch is accidentally pulled at speed. However, I feel like the electronic parking brake in the Tiguan is a stupidly over-engineered component. It scares me that there is an easily accessible switch that anyone in the vehicle can simply click (accidentally or on purpose) to bring the vehicle to an instant stop. The fact that it can’t be intuitively disengaged—at least not in my experience—once activated is even worse. Imagine this happening at 70mph on a highway. We all grew up knowing that the traditional hand-pulled e-brake could be activated and modulated in case of brake failure.
Forewarned is forearmed. Read about the electronic brake in your manual and be cognizant of the fact that that little switch has the potential to turn your life upside-down pretty quickly.