The video that Glenn Reynolds posted reminded me of something I have discussed before -- there is a serious problem with absolute idiots on the road. For whatever reason, our society deems it unnecessary to ensure that drivers know how to drive. Watch and weep as Mike Allen of Popular Mechanics demonstrates that (doh!) you can actually stop a car with a runaway accelerator by:

  • 1. applying the brakes; and
  • 2. shifting into neutral.
  • I'm sorry, but people who don't know this are morons. Idiots. Retards. They do not belong on the road, period. They are a far greater hazard to the public than the Toyota accelerator problem which has generated the huge recall.

    Worse yet, there seems to be a demand that the industry now modify its product so that when you apply the brakes, the car automatically shifts into neutral:

    Because Toyota did not incorporate the critical safety feature that shifts the car into neutral during braking, the driver must manually shift the vehicle into neutral.
    Huh? Does this mean that in the future, all cars will be designed to shift into neutral during braking? (Anyone who thinks that's a "safety" feature ought to try it on a San Francisco hill.)

    I think there needs to be a driver recall.

    Except I know it will never happen. We live in a country in which
    someone who never had a drivers license nonetheless managed to have her nonexistent license "suspended" 12 times
    , yet after her fatal accident, officials say that "no one wants to pass judgment." (And now, of course, she has another excuse: she can blame the car!)


    posted by Eric on 03.07.10 at 09:36 AM


    Once cars drive themselves everything will hopefully be okay.
    The recent intermediate steps are annoying me though.
    Power steering and brakes are okay, but anti-lock brakes and traction control annoy me.

    I know how to drive, I don't need my car to tell me how.
    That "shifting into neutral" thing is about stupid, dangerous and will lead to more problems when some linkage breaks and it doesn't go back into drive. Plus, what about stick-shifts?

    I figure, they're going to at least try to make it so the accelerator doesn't work when the brakes are applied.

    Now, I hate people who ride the brake, it's very stressful following them but....

    It's not the gov't's job to get involved in that and besides, there are times when you need or want to do both (just like there are times when you need or want to skid or slide).

    At least I've bought the last car I intend to buy. One more year and it's paid off and after that, I'm keeping it forever.

    Veeshir   ·  March 7, 2010 10:34 AM

    As a professional driver, (Trucker, Heavy Haul) with about three million accident/claim free miles under my butt...I agree.

    Most people don't know how to drive.

    I'd go so far as to say that anyone NOT driving a stick is incompetent. Driving a stick keeps you focused. Automagic transmixers and all the other "stuff" encourage folks to NOT pay attention to what they are doing.

    I'd be for banning Automatic Transmissions.

    Radical? Yup. Prove me wrong.

    Everitt Mickey   ·  March 7, 2010 11:57 AM

    Veeshir, I want a new car less and less these days, and I hope mine lasts the rest of my life.

    Everitt, I agree about stick shifts, and I learned to drive on a stick when I was a teenager. If you can drive a stick, you just intuitively know cars. Whether ATs are abolished or not, I think it would help if the ability to drive a stick were a standard part of the driving test (along with the ability to read in English).

    Eric Scheie   ·  March 7, 2010 12:52 PM

    My Audi's throttle jammed wide-open, and that's exactly how I stopped it. Other that a shredded intercooler return hose, there wasn't any damage at all.

    Bob Mulroy   ·  March 8, 2010 10:25 PM

    So everyone who doesn't know to shift into neutral "are morons. Idiots. Retards. They do not belong on the road, period"?

    I suppose that's easy judgment to make from the comfort of a computer chair. After all, sudden accelerations are now a danger in the foremost of our minds. But would you have been so cool-headed if confronted with the situation several months ago?

    An off-duty Calif highway patrol officer wasn't. His Lexus accelerated past 120 mph, despite his efforts. Someone in the car had have the presence of mind to call 911. But the vehicle ultimately crashed, killing the driver, his wife, teenage daughter and brother-in-law.

    So let me ask again: Are you really saying a 45-year-old CHP officer is someone who "doesn't belong on the road, period?"

    d-man   ·  March 9, 2010 1:56 PM

    d-man, if you are referring to Mark Saylor, here's a report of what happened:


    SANTEE - The CHP has released the disturbing 911 call made by a family as their loaner vehicle raced out of control and crashed, taking the lives of CHP officer Mark Saylor, his wife Cleofe, their daughter Mahala and Cleofe's brother Chris Lastrella.

    In the tape, Lastrella tells the dispatcher, “We're in a Lexus. We're going north 125 and our accelerator is stuck.”

    The dispatcher asks where they are and Lastrella asks others in the car before replying, “We're going 120 (mph)! Mission Gorge! We're in trouble – we can't – there's no brakes, Mission Gorge -- end freeway half mile.”

    ***END QUOTE***

    If the brakes failed, then I would not call him a moron. As to whether he was able to shift into neutral, I don't know, but if he didn't know how, I would suggest that his training was inadequate.

    Eric Scheie   ·  March 9, 2010 5:04 PM

    From another report about the same incident:


    [Sheriff's Sgt. Scott] Hill did not know if Saylor tried to shift the vehicle into neutral or turn it off – actions safety experts say may have been impossible if the car was experiencing a malfunction. The shut-off button on the car must be held for three seconds to turn the car off, experts said.

    ***END QUOTE***

    If he had no brakes and was unable to shift into neutral, then I would not call someone who didn't belong on the road. My criticism is directed against those who are too stupid -- or too negligent -- to try.

    Eric Scheie   ·  March 9, 2010 5:14 PM

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