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May 2016
 

The Bellinghman
Date: 2009-09-30 10:01
Subject: On driving
Security: Public
Before the crash, one of the passengers called 911 to report that the accelerator was stuck and the car had reached 120 miles per hour (193km per hour).

(From the Beeb, reporting on a multiple fatality that has led to millions of recalls of Toyota cars.)

OK, it's a scary setup: the floor mat is under the accelerator pedal, and has jammed it down (presumably by being pulled through the slot the accelerator arm goes through). But what I don't understand is this: why didn't they stop the car?

Why didn't they put it into neutral and use the brake?

(Contrariwise, I've stopped a car from 70 mph with an apparently inoperable footbrake, using just engine braking, so the 'the brakes have been cut' is not that scary either.)

ETA: I'm not trying to make the victim of this out to be stupid. It's just that I can see potential ways out, and want to know if they were tried and found ineffective, or whether panic blinded the driver.
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jon_a_five
User: jon_a_five
Date: 2009-09-30 09:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Can't you just turn the key to 'off' and let it coast to a stop?
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2009-09-30 09:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Good point. I'd not considered that - stopping the engine rather than just disconnecting should also work.

Even if it is a diesel, ignition off should stop the fuel pump, and it'll run out of oomph not much later.
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Just a random swede
User: vatine
Date: 2009-09-30 09:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Depends, I think. A petrol engine may well seize and cause a more-than-unpleasant decceleration. A diesel could, if there's enough height difference between the engine and the tank, but I guess most cars require active pumping.
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2009-09-30 09:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Most modern cars will lock the steering when turning the key off so NO - don't do that to a moving vehicle.
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oldbloke
User: oldbloke
Date: 2009-09-30 09:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Loss of power steering can be a rather unpleasaant shock at speed.
And if there are any bends, you run the risk of the steering lock coming on.
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2009-09-30 09:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My first car had a similar problem and I ended up with an engine which was revving uncontrollably. Luckily I was doing less than 30mph, put it into neutral, and turned off the ignition.


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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2009-09-30 09:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I assume these guys started off at about 60 or so (off-duty state trooper, after all), and escalated from there. But heck, what's the worse that can happen? Break the engine?

Even an automatic has low gear options (for hill descents if nothing else) and dropping it into one of those would have severely slowed it down as the engine couldn't rev hard enough to go 120 in 2nd.
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ms_cataclysm
User: ms_cataclysm
Date: 2009-09-30 09:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Why didn't they put it into neutral and use the brake? Bearing in mind the driver was an off duty policeman, they probably did but it would still take a long time for a heavy car like a Lexus to slow down and stop. Whether you have an accident or not is going to be determined by the traffic density and stopping distance.

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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2009-09-30 09:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But they'd have started off a lot slower than that 120 mph they ended up at - it takes that heavy Lexus quite a long time to get up to that speed from a legal one. And there was also enough time for a passenger to ring 911 and talk to a dispatcher.

I think what we have here is a classic case of panic: brain turns off when classic Hollywood danger threatens.
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2009-09-30 09:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One thing which we have mostly missed with our English ways is that this car was probably an automatic. It may not have a neutral other than "park".

Something which is natural for us (going into neutral) is quite different for Americans who mostly drive automatics.

(And no I am not American bashing for once - just pointing out a difference in our experiences)
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2009-09-30 09:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
On the balance of probabilities, it was an automatic, yes. But I've not encountered an automatic that doesn't have a neutral as well as a park.

I'm not saying one doesn't exist - but if one does exist, then this is a possible reason to avoid it.

Disclaimer: I drive an MG ZT automatic, and have previously driven a BMW 5 series one, but I've only driven one automatic in the US.
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User: pir
Date: 2009-09-30 10:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Every automatic I've driven in the US has had a neutral and park.
Sometimes there are restrictions about which gear changes you can make under particular conditions, though I can't imaging a restriction on going into neutral.

Most Americans don't really think about gears, though, having only ever driven automatic cars and only generally think about the change lever/stick when stopped.

I still think I'd prefer to risk stopping ungracefully, locking the steering and screeching to a halt than running into something at 120mph+.


On a motorbike I've had my rear wheel lock up while moving at ~ 40-50mph and I had enough thinking time to work out if it was the drive train or the engine by messing with the clutch before I slid to a halt.
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Aldabra
User: aldabra
Date: 2009-09-30 11:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I would do that, but only because I've read a previous case of runaway car and the accompanying comments saying why oh why didn't they just put it in neutral. I don't think that would have occurred to me in a crisis. Not until after pulling the handbrake didn't work, anyway.

You'd expect a) police and b) people answering 911 calls to know the trick, though.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2009-09-30 11:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"pulling the handbrake" ... you're a Brit, aren't you?

A lot of American cars don't come with a handbrake, at least not in the sense you're thinking of. They've got a parking brake control, but it's a switch buried somewhere on the floor, and most drivers don't use it -- they just stick the gear selector in "Park" when they're done driving. I'm not at all convinced it's a separate system with a cable connection to the brake shoes (as it is on manual transmission vehicles I'm familiar with, here in the UK).
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Sarcasticia Nitpickerson
User: tisiphone
Date: 2009-09-30 11:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
TBH, it might just not occur to an American driver to do that. I'm going to remember it now, in the unlikely situation that this happens while I'm driving, but I wouldn't have thought of it on my own.
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