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What useful function does the ingnition button serve?

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Dear Tom and Ray:


Whenever I rent a car that has a button that must be pushed before the ignition key can be released, I become curious. What useful function does this button serve?
Jan

TOM: Good question, Jan. I don't think it serves any useful purpose. I think it's a result of pressure from the valet-parking lobby. They got tired of having people walk off without leaving their keys.

RAY: Actually, Jan, there is a reason behind it. It's there to prevent you from turning the key all the way to the "lock" position by accident while the car is in motion. If you were traveling along and your car stalled, you might try to just pop it into Neutral and restart it while you were moving.

TOM: Not that we recommend that--but it does seem to be a great American pastime.

RAY: If you turned the key too far back by accident, you could lock the steering wheel, and then you'd really be in trouble.

TOM: So the button is yet another device designed to protect us from ourselves--just like motorized seatbelts and doors that lock by themselves . I hear that the next step in this direction is a car with?out any doors at all. I mean, if we can't get into the car and drive it, that's got to be safer, right? Of course, people could always hurt themselves by bumping into the car while it's sitting in the drive?way.
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