Much has been made — an appropriately so — of Toyota’s problem with gas pedals that stick.
A scenario that led a New York Times story on the problem captured the horror of it all:
The 911 call came at 6:35 p.m. on Aug. 28 from a car that was speeding out of control on Highway 125 near San Diego.
The caller, a male voice, was panic-stricken: “We’re in a Lexus … we’re going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck … we’re in trouble … there’s no brakes … we’re approaching the intersection … hold on … hold on and pray … pray …”
The call ended with the sound of a crash.
The Lexus ES 350 sedan, made by Toyota, had hit a sport utility vehicle, careened through a fence, rolled over and burst into flames. All four people inside were killed: the driver, Mark Saylor, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, and his wife, daughter and brother-in-law.
If only we were better trained as drivers for emergency situations like the one these poor people faced. The solution seems simple: Turn the engine off or shift it into neutral, anything to stop the effect of a runaway accelerator.
Toyota’s guidelines on what to do in a similar situation:
• If you need to stop immediately, the vehicle can be controlled by stepping on the brake pedal with both feet using firm and steady pressure. Do not pump the brake pedal as it will deplete the vacuum utilized for the power brake assist.
• Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.
• If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.
• If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.
• If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel. (h/t: Matt Quintanilla)
I generally don’t read comments attached to YouTube videos, but this one offered some actual insight into the Electronic Control System:
All of the signal and mechanism are connected into the ECU and ECU controls the engine/tranny. You couldn’t turn the engine off if ECU fails. You couldn’t shift the gear into neutral if ECU fails. But you could apply brakes eventhough the ECU fails.
All of which makes one wonder whether our cars are getting too electronically sophisticated, to the point where we’re just along for the ride?