Monday, October 05, 2009

The Neutral Question & Advice from an 86 Year Old

I'm still pondering the question (posed in my previous post) of shoving the transmission into neutral while driving. I've tested it while driving my jeep (deserted road; 25 mph) and retained control over steering. Granted 25 mph is a far cry from 120. Ultimately, I agree with Janet: Lawsuits are the main reason car companies won't discuss this. Still, you would think a news - info-tainment show would.

So, I decided to ask the best driver I know: my 86-year-old mom. Surprised by that??? She learned to drive a Model T and a tractor as a young teen. When she went to to work for the phone company in the 1940's, she had to be certified to drive a commercial vehicle. That meant many hours of defensive driving classes every year. She always thought those classes made her a much better driver. I have to agree. Mom has had a few accidents in all her years of driving but she was at fault in none of them.

She's even had to drive in L.A. a few times. Let me tell you, L.A. traffic is a far cry from LA traffic. She's always handled it beautifully.

Mom agreed with me that neutral probably is the safest way out of that situation. She also pointed out that turning that engine off would actually be a pretty dangerous option. That causes complete loss of power steering and sometimes locks the steering wheel. That would not be pretty at 120 mph.

Which led her to digress in a depression era driving tip. Before power steering, you could kill your engine and still drive. My mom came from a poor farm family and they had to make every dollar stretch. So all of her brothers and she quickly figured out that when driving downhill, they would save money by killing the engine and coasting downhill and onto a straightaway. (Although I have to wonder if starting the engine over and over wouldn't burn through the fuel saved.)

I actually remember her doing this with our manual transmission car from my childhood. Our house sat with one street T boning our street and straight into our driveway. That street was long and downhill. She would often kill the car about halfway down the block and coast right into our garage.

It makes me wonder if all of our inventions and improvements have really made driving any safer than the "tanks" my mother learned to drive in her youth.


Snowbrush said...

I agree with you and your mom.

Becky said...

I don't think I ever told you this story but years ago I was driving our Camry to work going over 80 mph when the engine died on me. I couldn't believe how fast the car slowed down so I put on my flashers immediately and was able to coast to an exit (I was in the far left lane of a busy three lane highway). Yes, the power steering was gone but I was still able to steer and have control. It was truly scary.

Snowbrush said...

Steering sans power steering (and power brakes) is what we all used to do all the time. When either goes out, you're just driving what we all used to drive.