The horrible spectre of the OUT OF CONTROL CAR! (music: dah-dah-dah-daahhhhhh) continues. Now some other moron, this time in a Toyota Prius is claiming that his car began accelerating uncontrollably and there was nothing he could do about it except call the cops. Accelerating "uncontrollably."
I know. I can't believe it either.
Dear Lord! What kind of idiot drivers are we allowing on our public roads?? Idiots like, evidently, 61 year-old James Sikes of...you'll never guess...California.
Here's the Associated Press STORY as it appeared on Yahoo News this morning:
Mr Sikes says he was on Interstate 8 and went to pass another car when his accelerator jumped to the floor and stuck there. He says the brakes were useless. So he did a perfectly normal thing: He got on his cell phone, called 911 and got the California Highway Patrol involved. You see, ALL drivers know how to use a cell phone, even if they don't know how to operate the car they happen to be driving at the time.
A police cruiser soon pulled up next to him. After all, the Toyota Prius is not exactly a high-speed, high-performance car, and it probably wasn't all that hard to catch. The trooper offered instructions through his loudspeaker. He suggested some highly unusual techniques such as pushing the brake pedal to the floor and holding it there and applying the handbrake.
Now here's an interesting tidbit from that story:
"After the car decelerated to about 50 mph, Sikes turned off the engine and coasted to a halt."
Ooooooookkaaaaaayyyyy, WHY didn't Sikes just do that at the first sign that his car was doing something he didn't intend? Are people really that stupid?
"Gee, my car is accelerating and I can't stop it. Should I shift to neutral? Shut the engine off? Naaaahhhh. I think I'll call 911 instead! Hopefully, they'll send a police car out to help me before I crash and kill myself...and maybe other people. No hurry!"
I am appalled at the lousy drivers on the road today. Our licensing standards are a joke. I am terrified that drivers like Sikes might be behind me when I'm out there driving around.
As a public service, I'm going to now give you some basic instructions on what to do if your car begins to accelerate uncontrollably. This advice applies no matter what kind of car you drive:
1. First try to dislodge the gas pedal with your foot. If that doesn't work;
2. Stomp on the brake pedal as hard as you can AND HOLD IT THERE! Do not let up;
3. Apply the hand/parking brake;
4. Shift to neutral;
5. If Steps 1 through 4 do not work, SHUT THE ENGINE OFF.
6. Do not whip your cell phone out to call the police or your mom or Mr. Toyoda until AFTER the car comes to a stop.
No matter what you might think...no matter what the media might lead you to believe, the brakes of your vehicle are far more powerful than the engine. The brakes never "stop working" (unless they are defective, in which case you should not have driven the car). Push the brake pedal down and hold it there. Don't worry about the smell of burning brakes- that's normal. If you let up (even slightly), the car will simply accelerate again and the brakes will have to work all that much harder the next time. Just push the pedal as hard as you can AND HOLD IT. Then shift the transmission to Neutral.
Is this too much to ask?
Oh, don't believe me? Read THIS article in CAR AND DRIVER Magazine.