CHP won't advise drivers of runaway Toyotas

by CalWatchdog Staff | March 9, 2010 4:30 pm

The LA Times today reported on the case of the driver of a runaway Prius in San Diego County who was counseled by a California Highway Patrol officer to “apply his emergency brake in tandem with the brake pedal” in order to slow down the car. That did work. The driver slowed down the car and then turned off the ignition after a harrowing adventure. But why didn’t CHP offer the much more sensible advice of putting the car in neutral? I called CHP for an answer. The agency wouldn’t comment on that but sent me to the press officer in San Diego. I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I was told that he is overwhelmed with calls about this incident.

Most bizarre: CHP  spokeswoman Erin Komatsubara told me that in response to the incident, its officers have today been advised to refuse advice to Toyota drivers in a similar pickle. Instead of doing a little homework, CHP has taken a bureaucratic approach that could endanger public safety. In other words, if you drive a Toyota and it has a bout of sudden acceleration, you are on your own. This is insane.

I talked to a mechanic who confirmed that simply putting the car in neutral is the best response in a sudden acceleration situation. Jamming on the brakes while the engine surges ahead is tough, especially for people without much physical strength. When the ignition is turned off, the car has limited steering responses. If the car is put in neutral, the driver can still maneuver it to the side of the road and then turn off the ignition. At worst, the racing engine will be ruined, but this seems like the safest approach. I’m no expert and welcome any correction here. But this seems like the common-sense approach and one confirmed here by the Washington Post[1].

Yet rather than do a little safety research, CHP will simply say nothing. And the agency claims to put public safety at the top of its concerns.

–Steven Greenhut

  1. Washington Post:

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