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Ah, the unwise days of youthful employment -- pizza delivery in used beaters with serious mechanical problems.  In retrospect, my cars probably should not have even been allowed on the road.  Nor should many of the moving trucks I've rented.

I've stalled in traffic.  I've had a rusted hood latch go on me at highway speeds so I had to pull over in traffic while looking through the tiny slit under the hood.  I've had tires blow, accelerator cables snap, and chunks of car fall off unexpectedly.

Warning... about as work-safe as groping your staffers

I've had steam come pouring out of the heating vents suddenly and completely obscuring my view, had smoke from a squirrel nest flood the compartment and choke me, had windshield wipers come loose in the middle of a downpour at highway speeds.  I've had heaters so weak they couldn't keep wiper fluid from flash-freezing on my windshield, in direct sunlight, causing total blindness.

Ever driven power steering cars without any power in the steering?  Been there.  Done that. I've had power brakes fail to manual mode.  I've had to pump brakes, had to keep the throttle down or face a stall, and had to do both simultaneously, while working the clutch, with only two feet.  I've had to drive with no first or second gears on a catchy clutch.

I've had to jump start while moving, had to get out and push to jump start, had to crawl under the car and reconnect a starter wire in the middle of a busy intersection.  I've had to scurry back into the drivers seat after lifting my foot off the clutch when parking while a supposedly turned-off engine dieseled me towards a building wall.

I've spun out on ice more times than I can count.  I've fishtailed on dry pavement after braking for a dashing wolf on I-90.

I've spent many frantic seconds praying that that truck driver sees me, or that the guy hurdling up in my rear view window can brake in time.

Despite all this I've never been at fault for anything more than a parking lot fender ding -- but more to the point:

Driving is dangerous.  If you get into a car with the attitude that every part of the machine is going to work 100% of the time, and do dangerous things like tailgate or cut people off because you are sure your brakes or acceleration is "just going to work" you seriously need to check yourself.

No matter how safe you drive there is always the chance you'll be put in a situation where things get dangerous, whether it is due to mechanical failure, or the actions of other drivers, or your own brain farts.  The most important thing is to keep your head, hands and feet, no matter how the rest of your body is reacting.  Shut out the rest of your body.  Head, hands, and feet.  Ignore the racing heart, the tightened chest, the sinking gut, the hot flash, the burning hot coffee lap, and (for shame) the cigarette coal -- shut it all out for 30 seconds and control yourself and your vehicle.  Try feeling just your head, hands, and feet right now.  That's what you
have to do, and fast.

The only thing between you and total panic is being mentally prepared.

Please, kossaks, prepare yourself.  Do it this week by running through what you should do in various scenarios, testing what your car actually does in a safe area.  More importantly do it every single time you step into your car, by saying to yourself "I won't get anything done today if I spend it in a car crash" ... focus before driving.  Every time.

You know what does not help people avoid panic?

Telling drivers (and people who may rent one) scary lies about their cars, that's what.

Over the past month I have been told many lies on the Internet about my current car, a 2007 Toyota Prius.  Since I have one, and can test things out, and since I'm an engineer and can easily find and read technical documentation, these lies are easy enough for me to debunk.  (Even so, I still hate, hate, hate being lied to.)

Lies like "the car won't shift to neutral at highway speeds or with the gas pedal depressed."  It does.  The engine turns off and you coast like any other car, with full power steering and power brakes.

Lies like "there's only electronics behind the gas pedal, not real breaks."  Simply not true.  If you push the pedal down far enough you are pushing on an actual hydrolic pump that goes directly to the braking system.  Only the casual braking is subject to computer control.

I don't care what you think about Toyota as a company or a product.

Some people get their information on things like this second or third hand.  That means they could be getting it from you.  If you post in the right spot at the right time, that could be hundreds or thousands of people getting emergency-critical information from YOU.

I'm especially talking to the people who run around screaming "Toyota has murdered 52 people!" and then lie to drivers about their car's emergency behavior.

If some Toyota driver is out there and has some sort of mechanical issue, and they do the wrong thing because they read false information posted to the Internet, the person who passed that information along without fact checking it is just as culpable as any car company employee.  Same goes if they just don't know what to do because some ass with a chip on his shoulder yelled "that's blaming the victim!" and down-modded a post offering a link to good information on what to do in an emergency.

Maybe we should hold you all accountable, too.

Originally posted to skids on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:20 PM PST.

Poll

Toyota media mania, a product of...

36%4 votes
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9%1 votes
9%1 votes
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| 11 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    Ignorance is Curable.

    by skids on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:20:27 PM PST

    •  To the inevitable day-tuk-r-jyobs flamer... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Abra Crabcakeya, slowbutsure

      When I bought my first Prius, Toyota was the only company making a serious 4-seater hybrid.  As much as I am inclined to "buy American" our car companies were just not innovating in the right direction at the time (things have improved since.) Everything went peachy with that, but it was one of the early models with expensive parts I didn't want to pay for off-warranty later in the life of the car, so I let it go to the used market and got a new one from a larger production run 5 years later.  When I trade, I usually stick with the brand because you can often get better trade-in values that way.  Besides, I liked the model.

      I've had zero problems with it.  I expect to drive this one until it really starts to fall apart, as all cars do eventually.

      You shouldn't hate me for that.

      I do intend to look at all brands when the time comes again for me to get a new car (am so done with the used market -- I've put my time in and I think I'll let today's pizza delivery guys recycle my old cars from now on, thank you.)  I do intend to consider labor issues in addition to environmental issues and all the rest of the factors.  All brands will be on the table.

      However, I just might be less enthusiastic about looking at a car that a yelling asshole on the Internet has berated me for not driving.  I try to keep those knee-jerk reflexes out of my financial decisions, but who knows how much of a sway the subconcious mind may have over us.

      So stop it.  Pricks.

      Ignorance is Curable.

      by skids on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:23:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree that part of it is hype.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skids, slowbutsure

    It does seem more likely each day that goes by though that there could be some unrepeatable electronic faults showing up and that could be causing problems.

    I once had an acceleration problem, and that was scary.  It wasn't a Toyota though.  Turns out that an acorn got stuck on the throttle and that's why it wasn't working properly.

    Founding Member of Peanut Butter PAC- A People-Powered PAC

    by pistolSO on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:26:32 PM PST

    •  I share concerns about fly-by-wire... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV

      One of the silver linings about this is that all the nascent EV/PHEV companies are probably scurrying back to the engineers and asking them to put back in some of the cutoff measures the pointy-heads took out of final designs (conjecturing, I am.)

      All EV's should have various levels of physically activated override, and those without friction brakes especially should have a physically activated way to close the current loop in a way that results in moderate braking that won't usually lock the tires (limits to what you can do without computer control, there.)  Most already have redundant circuits, but as a last ditch, even a single-use friction ebrake would be best.

      Put it all on one emergency lever, pull it down one notch at a time until something works.

      Ignorance is Curable.

      by skids on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 05:23:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was told today that I have no right telling (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skids, Abra Crabcakeya, slowbutsure

    people to shift to neutral if their Toyota goes rogue. That I'm endangering lives by doing so, since it's not proven to help.

    I say bullshit. And if you're unsure of what to do, and you own one, don't drive it. If you believe you can keep your head, then go for it. I don't think they're any more dangerous than any other car that might go nuts. It's the driver, and their ability to think in a panic situation. If you can't, then you shouldn't be driving, not matter what you drive.

    John Boehner thinks of himself as Ceasar. How about we change his name to Orange Julius?

    by second gen on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:27:26 PM PST

    •  It's the best advice. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      second gen, slowbutsure

      If it's a gas pedal problem, it will work, if it isn't, it's the fastest option to try before braking hard or holding down the off button.  If neither of those work, you're probably doomed anyway.

      Whoever told you that may cause a death someday.

      Ignorance is Curable.

      by skids on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:35:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The diary a five down from you, for one. (0+ / 0-)

        That diarist claims just jamming the brakes hard will stop any car, no matter the condition of the accelerator or the speed of the car.

        Neutral is always the first course of action when a car won't stop. (not picking up your cell phone and calling people frantically)

        If the brakes fail, then downshifting is the preferred method.

        John Boehner thinks of himself as Ceasar. How about we change his name to Orange Julius?

        by second gen on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:45:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mostly true, but yeah, neutral, then brakes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Abra Crabcakeya

          Power button as a last resort, parking brake only very carefully and preferably only if you toast your normal breaks and are going straight enough to lock the back wheels without losing it.  If you turn off the engine try to move to the
          outside lane before you get under 30mph because it steers worse at low speed.  Not much different from any car I drove in the 80s, minus only having a B to downshift into.

          Where the brakes might not work is if you have already been lightly braking (like you should not) while going down hills and they are already warm.  (Or if you're burning your brakes on purpose to be convincing for the police :-/)  Or if they just got wet.

          Doesn't hurt to hover the brake pedal so your lights turn on as a warning to people behind.

          Ignorance is Curable.

          by skids on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 04:55:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  This diary is the only intelligent commentary on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skids, slowbutsure

    the Toyota non- crisis I've seen yet. Yes , I drive a Toyota - and it remains the only vehicle I've driven a lot in 41 years of driving that has been "Oh Shit!" free.

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