Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is it Really Just Toyota's Fault?

What has happened to the time-honored tradition of passing along the love of cars, the skills and techniques of driving and the respect for the ability to drive a car?

I'm a little wound up over this week's story of a guy in San Diego County, California driving his 2008 Prius. He put his foot to the floor in an attempt to pass a car and at that moment, his accelerator pedal stuck. Lucky for this guy he was driving a Prius and top speed is apparently right around 94 mph. 20 minutes later a CHP officer was able to help the car to a safe stop. 20 MINUTES! At any point did the driver even once consider throwing the car into neutral?

Sure Toyota has a design flaw of some sort that caused the pedal to stick and the company needs to fix it. But the moment the car starts accelerating it becomes the drivers' responsibility to safely bring the vehicle to a stop. The steering wheel still worked. The gear box still worked. The brake pedal and emergency brake still worked. This guy was very lucky because he blew it. But in my way of thinking, the culpability does not stop there.

At some point in this guy's life, he likely took a driver's education class. That class was more than likely sanctioned by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once he passed that course, he went to the DMV to take the written exam and driving test, and ultimately the DMV was convinced he was sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to earn the privilege to be licensed to operate heavy machinery on public highways. Obviously he was NOT ready!

Everyone these days seems to be looking for somebody or something else to blame for something that should be their responsibility. Toyota isn't building exploding cars like Ford was in the 1970's. If your car explodes, there's not a whole lot you can do about it. If your steering fails, your ability to control the vehicle is compromised and you need a little luck coming to a halt without hurting someone or yourself. But the combination of working elements in the San Diego Prius provided ample options for our panicky (and unsafe) driver.

If you drive as much as I do, you see constant and consistent evidence that a growing percentage of people are nowhere near ready to be licensed. Just count the number of people you see everyday who can't change lanes without hitting the brakes! What's that about?

Bottom line, our society has to take driving seriously again. From signaling, to using mirrors and looking over our shoulders, to driving like we're not the only person in a car on the planet at any given moment, it's time to fall back in love with driving and respect every aspect of it.

Who's with me?

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