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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Unintended Acceleration", Don't Pray, THINK

This morning on the radio, I heard the audio from a 911 distress call that a man placed while driving an out of control Lexus.  This was one of the events which precipated the massive Toyota floor mat recall.  Apparently, his accelerator pedal was stuck to the floor, and his brakes weren't working (he probably boiled them, or perhaps, the brake pedal was obstructed). He called 911 in a panic, and the operator just had time to suggest that he turn the car off, before the man said "We're coming to an intersection... pray!", and that was the end.  The man and his three passengers were killed. 

He didn't need to pray.  He just needed to think.  He panicked, and got himself and his family tragically killed because he wasn't able to use his cars multiple redundant controls.

Suppose your gas pedal is stuck to the floor.  What can you do?

  1. Use your toe to try to lift the pedal.  This actually happened to me once, that a piece of trash got jammed next to the pedal, and I had to physically pull it up to free it.
  2. If that doesn't work, put your car into neutral.  Then use the brakes.
  3. If your normal brakes won't work (they're cooked, or loss of vacuum) you can use your emergency (aka parking) brake to slow your car
  4. If all else fails, kill the power to the engine by turning off the key.  If you don't have a key but have push button start, no big deal.  On many systems, pressing and holding the engine start button will force it to stop.
So there are 3 different ways to stop your car from accelerating: transmission, emergency brake, engine stop.  It's a shame that the 911 caller couldn't remember any of them.


notDilbert said...

The biggest problem is that the vast majority of drivers consider their car as an appliance that transports them from place to place. They don't think about how it works any more than they know how thier washing machine works. It just does. So is it any wonder, that when faced with a problem like a sticking gas pedal, that any normal enthusast could solve in a second they panic and draw a blank for a solution.

......and you missed a final desperate 4th and 5th options.

4. Deliberatly spin the car.
5. Rub the car against the guard rail / embankment

Jason Lancaster said...

Hallelujah brother. Floor mats are dangerous?! Next thing you know, the government will be regulating bathtubs because a lot of people drown in them.

I'm often mystified by the complete and total lack of personal responsibility in our society.

unparalled60 said...

People can sometimes become negligent especially when it comes to driving their cars. Drivers should be aware of the consequences before doing it.

Anonymous said...

Because of this issue I looked at my Buick Enclave floor mat when I got in the car this morning. GM has a cutout in the mat where the accelerator pedal is located. GM just out engineered Toyota...

I agree the person freaked out and didn't understand how to stop the car. I also say Toyota should have eliminated any chance of this happening. I also don't want the government involved. Look at what they did to the housing market, banking, and how they watch non-government companies suffer while doing nothing. Personal responsibility, as Jason put it, needs to be championed.

Anonymous said...

If the accident you describe was the one that occured here in San Diego about a month ago, it might be worth noting that the driver who was killed along with his family was a California Highway Patrol officer.

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