Friday, October 02, 2009

Riddle Me This

I have a question about a sad situation that no one seems to be able to answer. The situation has to do with the recent Toyota floor mat recall which, in turn, was prompted by the death of CA Highway patrolman, Mark Saylor and his family. Their deaths were so shocking because they called 911 to say their car was going faster and faster, up to 120 mph and that Saylor was applying the hand brake and almost standing on the floor brake before the crash that killed them.

What they did not realize is that the floor mat was caught on the accelerator. And furthermore, their Toyota had a push button start that required a three second depression to turn off. . . three seconds can seem like a lifetime at 120 mph.

But my question has to do with a driving trick, taught to me by my brother-in-law and step-father when I was learning to drive in backwoods Mississippi in 1978. My brother-in-law and sister were driving Hwy 55 N. to McComb one weekend with their car on cruise control. They were climbing a little hill and the accelerator depressed to give the car more gas. They topped that hill and the accelerator kept right on. My brother-in-law tapped his breaks to turn off the cruise control. The car kept speeding up and they were soon doing over 100. Knowing the brake and hand brake wouldn't help at that speed, my brother-in-law shoved his automatic transmission into neutral. When they reached a safer speed, he slipped it back into drive. This had disconnected the cruise control and he had could operate the car safely. (Now you know why NO ONE in my family wants cruise control in their cars.)

After this, my brother-in-law and step-dad took me out to one of the vacant, straight roads to practice driving and worked that trick into my lesson.

I don't mean this to be accusatory in any way but, can some one tell me if this would have worked in Saylor family's situation? As a highway patrolman, I would think this would be a trick Officer Saylor would have known but in that panic situation, maybe it was impossible think of it.

And if the neutral trick would work, why isn't Toyota talking about it? Wouldn't this be a great way to educate people???

Thoughts anyone???


Anonymous said...

They will never advocate such a trick because that would leave them vulnerable to lawsuits-that they knew that such a situation would occur and instead of fixing the problem, told people what to do when it happens.

I've never driven a car with cruise control, and my dad never had one. But I was told to use the hand brake, shift into neutral, turn the engine off if something like that happens. I've spent my life hoping that it never would happen.

My 1999 Toyota has a hook that holds the (came with the car)floor mat in place. I wonder if they use those hooks in newer cars? It's such a great idea. I was forever straightening the mat in my other car.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Janet, so true on the lawsuits part but, you would think one of the "news - tainment" shows would do a bit on it!

I LOVED that floor mat hook in my 98 toyota! I straighten my jeep floor mat every couple of days!

From what I can tell, the new floor mats on Toyotas are the reverse of the one we had...the hook appears to come from the mat and go into the floor of the car. They need the OLD design! That one rocked!

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about runaway vehicles and neutral so I can't help there. The worst problem I had was with a 3/4 ton chevy truck that for unknown reasons and at unpredictable times, would slam on the breaks when you only touched them. It was incredibly dangerous and I ended up replacing the entire break system, some part of which finally fixed the problem.


Becky said...

I always wondered what would happen in that type of situation if you just turned the car off.

Duly Inspired said...

I wish I knew the answer to your question. It's a terrible shame, what happened, but I don't know if shifting would or wouldn't have resolved the emergency. Very sad.