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Used Parts Bin: Unintended Acceleration

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Toyota
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Used Parts Bin: Unintended Acceleration

Bill Crittenden
August 25, 2013


Going Nowhere Fast

So last week my neighbor was driving a loaner and ended up putting a few wheels of it in his front lawn. It was a fun little show, listening to him cuss out the brakes on the minivan to his wife, swearing (in more ways than one) that he had his foot down on the brake. Oh, except that when he lurched backwards, the engine was going about 3,500 RPM.

C'mon, we've all fat-finger-dialed the wrong person before, can't we just take the responsibility when we mash our EEE wide shoes down on both pedals, too? Do we really need to all blame the car company, get NASA involved, and fearmonger everybody into thinking their cars' computer controls are going to randomly kill them?

The Big Panic Button on the Floor

Speaking of unintended acceleration, Car and Driver did an excellent series of tests to determine just what happens when your car does run away from you. Aside from the confusion start buttons now bring to the situation, just turning off the key can lock a steering wheel...not ideal. Toyota's start button required a hold of 3.3 seconds to shut off the engine, and rapid-fire panic pressing did nothing.

Or, how about the obvious: MASH YOUR FOOT DOWN ON THE BRAKE? Most cars have more powerful brakes than engines. From 7mph-stop the Camry took just sixteen feet longer under full throttle than no throttle (174' to 190'). At 100mph, you're far more at fault for your own injuries than any automakers' deficiencies, especially considering that our crash tests for safety regulations max out far below that rate of speed...but it took a V6 Camry at full throttle 88 feet longer to stop (from 347' to 435').

Just for comparison they threw in an Infiniti G37, which needed just 9 more feet at 70mph and 6 more feet at 100mph (because its throttle cuts out when the brakes are applied), and a Roush Stage 3 Ford Mustang, which despite needing a LOT of room to overcome that 540hp engine, the brakes still prevailed in the end.

The best panic button there is is the big rubber-covered one in the floor next to the gas pedal!

You can read more from Car and Driver at http://www.carabddriver.com/features/how-to-deal-with-unintended-acceleration

How 'Bout those Floormats?

Oh, what happens when you get the gas pedal stuck under the floor mat? My wife has a big chunky rubber floor mat in her Mazda CX-7, and one day that exact thing happened to me. I assessed the situation, seeing open road ahead of me I dug my heel into the mat and pulled it back. I got up to 45 in a 35 before freeing the pedal and brought it back down to the speed limit. Had there been a pedestrian, I would've just stood on the brakes.

The point? You need to be prepared for just such an occasion when you get behind the wheel. We Americans cherish our roadway culture but it comes at the mistake of thinking that it's a God-given right for anyone to drive. This isn't a hot cup if coffee, something else people have proven incapable of handling without a warning label. If you're too dumb, panicky, or otherwise unprepared to handle multiple decisions that can affect life and death for yourself and others around you traveling at the rate of 80.6 feet per second, you don't belong behind the wheel of a car. You will eventually get someone killed, and it shouldn't be the automakers' fault for not anticipating your inability to drive.



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