Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

The driver’s error factor to Toyota’s acceleration problem

Posted by lapearce on March 9, 2010

This Prius driver called 911 when his car accelerated up to 90mph, a police officer yelled at him to hit the brakes before stopping the car with his bumper

No one wants to be behind the wheel of a runaway car that accelerates on its own. Toyota’s brand is going to be damaged for years to come by this problem and their response to it. But there is an even bigger problem here than sticky accelerators: the drivers who lack the common sense to stop the cars themselves.

To clear the air on the point I’m trying to make: cars shouldn’t accelerate on their own. This problem shouldn’t exist in the first place and it is inexcusable that Toyota allowed so many cars to be made with this problem. But that doesn’t excuse the absolutely clueless drivers who can’t figure out how to put a car in neutral or slam on the brakes. The problem isn’t just with a worn pedal or a misplaced floor mats, it’s with how we are training our drivers and the amount of skills the average driver possesses.

As drivers we are becoming increasingly dependent on our cars to do things for us. We have anti-lock brakes to keep our brakes from locking up. Traction control to keep us from spinning out. Lane departure warnings to tell us when we are leaving our lane. Blind spot indicators to tell us when a car is next to us. Tire pressure monitors that tell us when our tires need air. Automatic transmissions that shift themselves and cruise control that lets the engine accelerate on its own. Plus hundreds of other little computers doing tasks that humans used to do. Not all technology is bad, ABS for example is great, but many of these features are dumbing down the driving population and leading to a generation of drivers who can’t even find neutral on a gear selector.

Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Institution is thinking about solving the problem by adding in yet another computer to do the job for us. The agency is considering mandating that all new cars have an override system where when you hit the brakes it overrides the gas. This technology will be the fatal shot to the already dying manual transmission. Goodbye downshifting, good bye fun, goodbye the last standout of drivers’ input in a world of cars that do everything for you. It is ridiculous and unnecessary too because hitting the brakes in a runaway Toyota will already stop the car.

We need to step up as a society and not just demand Toyota make safer cars, but demand that drivers be given the education they need to solve these problems without the addition of new nanny systems and government oversight. We need to raise voices in concern about all of the electronics that are in control of cars today and ask how necessary they are. Do they really help or are they hurting us by giving us an illusion of safety and reducing our skills to take control when the systems give it up?

No one should have died because of Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem. Everyone should have been able to put the car into neutral and hit the brakes. And if Toyota has some computer that doesn’t allow the driver of the car to do that—then that’s another problem all together.

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One Response to “The driver’s error factor to Toyota’s acceleration problem”

  1. Laer said

    Drivers are even more clueless than you think! In a recent case in San Diego, after driving for 20 minutes at speeds in excess of 90 miles an hour, the driver finally stopped. Here’s how, from an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

    Over his loudspeaker, the officer got him to press the brake to the floor and apply the emergency brake while the car was going uphill. That combination got the car to slow down to 50 m.p.h., police said, at which point the driver turned off the engine and coasted to a stop.

    Turned off the engine?! Why didn’t the driver do that as soon as the car started its uncontrolled acceleration? Sheesh!

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