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I imagine there are more than one other Toyota Prius drivers in Kos-land, and if you are like me, you are a concerned about the possibility that you may some day find yourself riding a missile with a mind of it's own, sort of like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

I think it important to note that in the most recent case of Prius run amok, there was one intervention that was not tried, that perhaps could have avoided the risk of injury or death for many people....

Putting the car in Neutral.

I drive a Prius.  I have removed the floormat, and have never had problems with the car.  But still I worry.

The Prius has a gearshift on the dashboard, to the right of the steering wheel.  You can put the car in drive "D" (or "B" to make the engine behave like a non-hybrid), reverse "R" or neutral "N".  N disengages the engine from the transmission- meaning that no matter how fast the engine is running, it will not be making the wheels go faster.

In the most recent Prius incident, the driver was instructed several times to put the car in neutral:  

During the two 911 calls, [the driver] ignored many of the dispatcher's questions, saying later that he had to put his phone on the seat to keep his hands on the wheel.

Leighann Parks, a 24-year-old dispatcher, repeatedly told him to throw the car into neutral but got no answers.

[The CHP patrolman] told [the driver] after [he] caught up with him to shift to neutral but the driver shook his head no.  [The driver] told reporters he didn't go into neutral because he worried the car would flip.

The driver did not try this because he was afraid the "car would flip".  

This is a misguided concern.  A normal functioning Prius can be put in neutral at any speed from "D", "B" or "R", and it will not cause the car to flip.  It will simply stop the engine from driving the transmission and making the tires go.  Thus, in neutral you can brake the car without the engine and transmission having an opposite effect.

Because I am deep in a loan for my car and need it for my long commute, I am going to continue to drive my Prius.  I am also going to know where my gearshift is and practice putting the car in neutral until it is second nature.

This way, if ever a 911 operator or highway patrolman asks me to put my car in neutral, I will know how and why to do it.


I did not write this post to criticize drivers of runaway Priuses.  I am not an engineer, and I don't work for Toyota or have any special car-related knowledge.  I am just a dude with some common sense.  I have no idea and make no claims that putting a malfunctioning Prius in neutral can stop an acceleration emergency.  But to me it seems logical that it should, and until Toyota or some other entity solves the problem, this intervention is something I feel I must be prepared to try before I am forced to ram the car into something to stop....

Originally posted to drational on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 07:07 AM PST.

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