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The Danger Of Pushbutton Start?


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As some of you may know, a very tragic incident occured recently in the San Diego area:

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local-beat...h-56629472.html

Many have speculated that the driver could not shut off his dealer-loaned car, a Lexus ES350. I know that many in this forum wished that the RX400h came from the factory with pushbutton start, but after reading that article, I am more inclined to be thankful that should the need arise, I can deactivate electrical power to the engine with a mechanical switch.

In any case, any driver of a vehicle containing a pushbutton switch should know how to turn off the engine in case of an emergency. I admit that this didn't cross my mind until I read the article.

Thoughts?

Dave

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As some of you may know, a very tragic incident occured recently in the San Diego area:

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local-beat...h-56629472.html

Many have speculated that the driver could not shut off his dealer-loaned car, a Lexus ES350. I know that many in this forum wished that the RX400h came from the factory with pushbutton start, but after reading that article, I am more inclined to be thankful that should the need arise, I can deactivate electrical power to the engine with a mechanical switch.

In any case, any driver of a vehicle containing a pushbutton switch should know how to turn off the engine in case of an emergency. I admit that this didn't cross my mind until I read the article.

Thoughts?

Dave

Tragic.

Don't you just have to press the button again to turn off the engine?

How does the accelerator stick on a modern (and new) car like this anyway? Floor mats?

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I thought that the shift lever must be in "Park" before the button (pressed for 3 seconds) can turn off the engine. And yes, the theory floating around is that the floor mat slid up far enough to catch the accelerator pedal.

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No, if you hold the button down it will shut it off whether its in park or not.

New technologies mean people need to learn how they work. My guess is in this case they will find that it was the mat that had slipped and stuck the accelerator down...

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Steve,

Is that the procedure to shut down the Prius as well? I would think that some people would get a bit spooked if the service advisor went over a "Things to do in case of a runaway full throttle emergency" procedure before handing over the "keys".

Still.....

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It's easy to 2nd guess what "ought" to have been done. My knee jerk reaction? Throw the knob into neutral ... but when you're talking fly by wire controls ... who knows if that element went south on the rental car as well. But hey, mechanical linkage fails too ... it's the nature of the beast ... right along with human error. It'll all have to be sorted out.

.

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According to a person in the ES section, the shifter cannot be put into neutral during those conditions. It is very rare that a mechanical ignition switch cannot turn off an engine.

This is one reason why I am now happy to have a mechanical ignition switch!

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I don't know of any street vehicle and very few specialized racing vehicles that have sufficient power to overcome functional brakes (assuming that they were working on the this vehicle). In other words, if the driver applied the brakes, the car should have stopped, at worst in a somewhat longer distance.

This brings to mind the Audi unintended acceleration thing, when a few drivers claimed that the cars just wildly ran away from them in spite of standing on the brakes. In the end, Audi was vindicated but almost went out of business from the adverse publicity.

I think the accident investigators will find that there is more to the story than a stuck accelerator or jammed pedal.

Tom

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My 68 Corvette had 4-wheel disc brakes, yet could not even come close to stopping a full-throttle condition (believe me, I tried). That car had about 350 HP, which was not astronomical. I can believe that the 09 ES350 has more than enough power to "overpower" its brakes.

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Yes, the Prius is the same way. And you absolutely can put the car in neutral in that situation, you can always put the vehicle in neutral.

As for telling people about the power-off procedure...its in the manual.

Wait until you have a car with a pushbutton start. You'll wonder how you ever survived without it. Its a great feature.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update:

"Toyota Orders Floor Mat Inspections After Fatal Crash

Toyota said Tuesday it will order all dealers to inspect their cars for mismatched floor mats after a mat was suspected of snagging a gas pedal on a runaway Lexus, ending with a fiery crash that killed four family members in San Diego County.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc. planned to issue an order Wednesday to about 1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers nationwide to make sure each of their new, used and loaner vehicles had the proper floor mats and that the mats were properly secured, said Brian Lyons, a spokesman for the Torrance-based company."

Tom

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I guess the questions remains - why didn't the officer put the transmission in neutral? If I were the passenger and the driver wasn't thinking staight, I'd throw that gear shift lever into neutral. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, as we all know.

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Here's some interesting news on the incident:

"After improperly fitting all-weather floor mats in a Lexus sedan were named as a possible cause of a fatal car accident near San Diego, Toyota is ordering its dealers to inspect the mats in all Lexus and Toyota vehicles.

Plastic floor mats that were not the right size for the 2009 Lexus ES 350 are suspected of causing the August 28 accident that claimed the lives of an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, his wife, their daughter, and his brother in law."

Tom

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I would guess that the driver did not own a pushbutton start Lexus and therefore did not know how to shut the engine off. Shifting the transmission into neutral wasn't done, either, for some reason. Since no one survived the accident, we can only speculate as to what was attempted.

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I guess the questions remains - why didn't the officer put the transmission in neutral? If I were the passenger and the driver wasn't thinking staight, I'd throw that gear shift lever into neutral. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, as we all know.

He probably felt he could stomp the brakes hard enough. For many years fighter pilots, for example were dead set against a "deadman" switch, that levels out a jet, if the pilot goes unconscious. The bravado fighter pilot logic was that if a fighter pilot is turning so hard that they lose consciousness, the deadman control won't help, it'll just mean the enemy fighter pilot has an easier target. I'm just saying sometimes the cop mentality of "I can handle it" may have played into not switching to neutral.

But equally bizar; a driver or passenger that calls 911 during 'out of control' acceleration? assuming one DID call 911, what were they expecting a 911 operator to do ... have you ever talked to one of these people? All too often, 911 operaters are just low paid folks who takes a LOT of info down (even in a murder/home invasion situation) asking names, number of people involved, location, addresses, license numbers, etc ... frustrating, though I suppose necessary

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Things happen so quickly that often, unless an action is well-rehersed, it doesn't get done. this is why emergency personnel must train consistently for that one time when the real deal is "going down".

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I guess the questions remains - why didn't the officer put the transmission in neutral? If I were the passenger and the driver wasn't thinking staight, I'd throw that gear shift lever into neutral. Of course, hindsight is 20-20, as we all know.

He probably felt he could stomp the brakes hard enough. For many years fighter pilots, for example were dead set against a "deadman" switch, that levels out a jet, if the pilot goes unconscious. The bravado fighter pilot logic was that if a fighter pilot is turning so hard that they lose consciousness, the deadman control won't help, it'll just mean the enemy fighter pilot has an easier target. I'm just saying sometimes the cop mentality of "I can handle it" may have played into not switching to neutral.

But equally bizar; a driver or passenger that calls 911 during 'out of control' acceleration? assuming one DID call 911, what were they expecting a 911 operator to do ... have you ever talked to one of these people? All too often, 911 operaters are just low paid folks who takes a LOT of info down (even in a murder/home invasion situation) asking names, number of people involved, location, addresses, license numbers, etc ... frustrating, though I suppose necessary

Wow. Even though you weren't in the car, you magically know that 'he felt he could stomp on the brakes hard enough' and even though you didn't know the officer, you know he also had a 'cop mentality of "I can handle it". You put Kreskin to shame - http://www.amazingkresking.com

When it comes to 911 operators, what exactly do you think they are supposed to do when you call? Ask names, number of people involved, location help is needed, suspects..etc. etc. Yes, they ask this so that the officer knows where he or she should go and what he or she will be walking into when they arrive at the address. You do realize, that even while they are talking to the caller and taking down all that frustrating information that emergency services will already have been dispatched? Yes, a miracle of modern technology, the two way radio, allows the dispatcher to update the officer as he or she is enroute to wherever the caller needs them.

Yo, we are just having a discussion. No one really knows what he was thinking, we are just speculating. How do you know it wasn't what he was thinking? I had something like this happen to me before. I don't normally wear boots, but this day I was. I was coming up on a stop light and transitioning my foot from the throttle to the brake when it got stuck between them. Because of the heavy sole I couldn't feel with my foot what was going on, so when I pushed on the brake, I was also pushing on the gas pedal. The harder I pushed on the brake, the more throttle I was giving it also. Of course you panic at first as you feel complete loss of control as your watching the stopped traffic at the light rushing in your direction. I couldn't steer the car to the left into on coming traffic and there were other cars in the right lane next to me. I reached down and thew it into neutral and the car came skidding to a stop not 2 inches short of hitting a huge box truck in front of me. Thank god the light was red for awhile so I could regather myself and get my heartbeat back under control. Even after the light changed to green, I had to pull over and try and figure out what happened. Once I figured out it was my boot, I took them off and drove the rest of the way in my socks.

And of course we know it's neccassary. But when your watching an emergency happen in front of you, involving your family and loved ones, and you call 911 your in that state of mind, it's very difficult. Imagine your the passenger in that car and you tell them whats going on and they ask you for your address, "WHAT?" WE ARE IN A CAR THAT IS OUT OF CONTROL ON MAINSTREET AND YOU WANT TO KNOW MY ADDRESS? That phone call to 911, even though the information would be needed, and no one is faulting the operator, or anyone on the emergency response side over this, just wouldn't be able to offer any help in time. There are unfortunatley times in people lives when they have to save themselves. People panic, and their brains freeze for some reason. They can't find the handle quickly enouph to think of solutions instead of a flailing panic response. It's just how some people are wired. Again, no ones fault here. What happened is what happened and it's very unfortunate and sad. I think some peoples expectations are just s bit higher for someoene who should have been used to emergency situations, and also have advanced driver training.

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It does seem somewhat incredulous that a veteran trained CPH Officer would panic even in a novel situation as this. Familiarizing yourself with a new vehicle/equipment would most likely be a habit for any professional driver. It would be interesting to learn what contingency training officers receive in dealing with possible driving situations.

Let's look at the options:

  • Placing the car into neutral - I find it difficult to believe that this option wasn't attempted!
  • Attempting to lift the accelerator pedal - wouldn't this be obvious to anyone?
  • Turning off the ignition - wouldn't the officer have noticed the start/stop button?

It seems to me that there could be extenuating circumstances which will no doubt be investigated. As for speculation, has anyone considered this accident could have been intentional?

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It seems to me that there could be extenuating circumstances which will no doubt be investigated. As for speculation, has anyone considered this accident could have been intentional?

I believe this would be the last thing anyone would think, given the horrible nature of the accident. One thing is certain in my mind - no one ever rehearses this type of event. THAT tends to explain why even a CHP officer would not automatically do things that are easy for us to point out.

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According to a person in the ES section, the shifter cannot be put into neutral during those conditions. It is very rare that a mechanical ignition switch cannot turn off an engine.

This is one reason why I am now happy to have a mechanical ignition switch!

hmmm ... it must be different from the Prius then, because as a tall person, I've knocked into neutral w/ my knee on way more than one occasion.

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