Advice on how to stop a runaway vehicle.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

We need a favor! Some time ago you printed a letter about a runaway
vehicle, and you gave some advice about how to stop a runaway. We clipped
the article, but lost it. Our boss says you should turn off the ignition,
but I seem to remember you saying that it's better to take it out of gear.
Would you please reprint that letter. It may help save lives AND prove our
boss wrong! Thanks. -- Kathleen.

RAY: Two worthy causes. Here it is, Kathleen.

Dear Tom and Ray:

A tragic accident happened this past spring in the Denver area. A woman was
driving a U-Haul truck on the interstate when the accelerator stuck in the
full open position. She fought it for a mile apparently, before hitting
numerous vehicles and stopping on top of a passenger car. One of the car's
occupants was killed, and a number of other people were injured. My husband
says the driver could have stopped by putting the truck in Neutral. I say
perhaps she could have stopped by turning off the ignition. In your
opinion, was there any way the truck could have been stopped by the driver?
Your answer may save many lives. -- Dorothy

TOM: Sure, Dorothy. Turning off the ignition OR putting it in Neutral would
have stopped the truck. But putting it in Neutral is by far the safer way
to do it.

RAY: Turning off the ignition would have stopped the engine, but it would
have turned off several other things as well. Most notably, the power
steering and power brakes. And while it's possible to stop and steer a
vehicle without power steering and power brakes, it ain't easy --
especially when you're driving a truck with three quarters of your worldly
possessions crammed into the back.

TOM: The other problem is that on some vehicles, turning the key to the Off
position locks the steering wheel. That's supposed to be a theft deterrent
when you park it. But when you're driving a runaway vehicle and suddenly
you can't steer anymore, that certainly adds one more little annoyance to
the situation -- to say the least.

RAY: So the best thing to do if you're ever in a runaway vehicle is to put
it in Neutral. That disconnects the engine from the wheels, so no matter
how fast the engine is going, the car is just coasting.

If you're in Neutral and the engine is still running, you'll still have
your power brakes and power steering, and you can simply pull over
carefully, stop the car, and then shut off the key.

TOM: There is, of course, some chance you could do some damage to the
engine by letting it rev so high in Neutral. In fact, it'll sound like it's
screaming. But in circumstances like this, who cares? C'mon! What's worth
more, your life and the lives of other people or a lousy engine?

RAY: Especially if it's a rental!

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