The recent discovery that various Toyota models suffered problems with unintended acceleration reveals not only the failure of corporate design and performance on the part of the world’s largest car company, but also a remarkable ignorance on the part of America’s driving public. Apparently, we are surrounded by motoring morons, whose understanding of their vehicles ends at starting the car and setting the temperature and radio. Faced with the sudden uncontrolled acceleration of their Prius, most people seem to freeze into mental incapacity, standing on the brakes until they burn out while calmly calling 911 for help, yet another example of outer directed personality problems, but I digress. In my day, when hot rodding measured the difference in flat head Ford performance against the stroked GMC 270 on the streets of teen America, every driver, including women, understood the use of gears and the relationship between motor and road speed. Most importantly, how to disconnect the former from the latter by depressing the clutch. This simple act, often combined with turning off the ignition, usually soothed the savage beast under the hood. Unless there was a fire, in which case you had to smother the carburetor with your sport coat.
These days the number of drivers who can drive a manual transmission is minimal, particularly among the buyers of new “green” cars. Even pickup trucks feature automatic drive in the modern age and all are now powered by computer tuned and controlled engines. Virtually nobody can work on them outside a major shop facility. The result is ignorance that can be dangerous on the highway.
In case of driving emergency, turn it off! This will probably result in stiff steering and less than subtle braking but it should let you pull over and stop.
If the engine will not shut down put the transmission in “N” for neutral and use the brakes to slow and exit the roadway. If this doesn’t work (an unlikely prospect), stuff the gears into “L” which should cause the engine to over-rev and possibly blow out, which will stop you pretty quick.
Today, we don’t need to know a lot of things that machines can think about faster than humans, but it isn’t all that difficult to understand what’s happening when you get into your car. After all it ain’t rocket science!
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.