STOP IT, NOW ! Or, WHOA-O-O-O Nelly!

What are some of the (practical) ways to stop a “runaway” car or truck ?

When travelling at speed, can the modern automatic transmission be put into REVERSE, or PARK ? I know it’s NOT prudent, normally: but, as an emergency measure, can the transmission go into REVERSE ?

On many cars, if the transmission is thrown into Reverse while you are driving at anything more than a low speed, the transmission will actually default to Neutral, so as to avoid transmission damage. This is not true for all makes, but it is true of many of them.

Similarly, if the transmission is thrown into Park, on many cars you will hear a “ratcheting” sound as the park pawl fails to engage. If the park pawl somehow did engage, it would promptly break off anyway from the force of driving at high speed.

The bottom line is that the only recommended way to deal with a “runaway” vehicle is to:
Hit the brake hard
Throw the shift lever into Neutral
Steer toward the shoulder
Once you are stoppped on the shoulder, put the trans into Park
Shut off the ignition

If you don’t know the answer to this queation, you probably shouldn’t be driving!!!

Yes it can; at the risk of wrecking it of course! Some years ago I was trying to find out whether a noise in my Dodge Colt was caused by the engine or the wheels. I put the car in “neutral” at about 20 mph, or so I thought. It overshot into Reverse, and there was a loud screeching of tires and the car came to a halt.

There was no damage to engine or transmission (a pretty rugged unit) and the car went well for a few more years. It did prove to me that slamming a car in Reverse would certainly stop it at least. Needless to say, I don’t recommend this action except as a last resort. Whatever you do, don’t get on your cell phone and try to call for help!!!

Recent testimony before Congress as to what various drivers actually “did” when confronted with “unintended acceleration” leaves me highly suspect of what actually transpired. There obviously was a problem, but a panicky driver’s testimony of what actually happened is likely not the exact truth.

Car and Driver magazine recently tested three cars (Camry V6, Infinity G37, and a Roush Mustang) to see if they could be stopped with their throttles wide open.

The brakes on all three cars (even the 540 hp Mustang) brought the cars to a halt, although the Mustang took significantly longer. The Infinity stopped the quickest because its computer cuts the throttle upon brake application. The Toyota doesn’t.

The most practical way to stop a runaway vehicle is to shift the transmission to neutral and use the brakes. Even in gear, the brakes are still stronger than the engine.

At motorcycle safety class, they stress instructors pay attention to the words they use. For example, it isn’t a kill switch. It is an engine cut-off switch. You don’t grab the brake, you gently but firmly squeeze the brake. You don’t pull the throttle, you roll the throttle.

Consequently, I would like to modify your instructions:

-Firmly press the brake. (Hitting the brake might lock the wheels.)
-Shift the gear level to neutral. (Throwing it might make you overshoot neutral. You could end up in reverse or park.)
-Carefully check your blind spot and pull over on the shoulder if the path is clear. (Steering toward the should might or might not be a good idea at the time.)
-Once the vehicle is stopped, shift into park.
-Turn off the engine.
-Set the parking brake
-If you were unable to get the vehicle out of the path of traffic, turn on your hazard lights and consider exiting the vehicle and moving to a safe area if it is safe to do so.

Your instructions are good, I just want to make them foolproof.

People keep asking this over and over. Please see all the existing threads.

In a have-to situation an automatic transmission can be thrown into PARK and this should bring the vehicle to a tire smoking halt.
While there’s always the possibility of shucking the parking pawl or even cracking the transmission case there’s always a good possibility that no harm will be done; other than to the tires.

Many years ago in my younger days a friend who had a 67 Camaro RS did this twice while I was in the car with him. At about 40 MPH he would slam the shifter into PARK and the car smoked to a halt. No harm was done.

Since most automatic transmission have converter stall speeds around 2000 RPM give or take I never could understand how an engine could override a fully planted brake pedal.

Shifting into park while the vehicle is moving could make matters worse if you are not traveling in a straight line, and on a FWD vehicle, it could easily send the car into a spin. It’s just something to consider. You better be traveling in a straight line on clean dry pavement.

In any emergency need to stop (brake ineffective), one could scrub the tires along the curb (if present); throw the car into a slide or a 180 degree spin; scrub the car along the guardrail, bushes, and the raised roadside (if present); put the gear shift into any lower gear, or reverse, or park (if it will go); turn the engine off IF one won’t lose control of the car.

That has ALWAYS been my contention. That is why I seriously doubt at lady that testified before congress this past week. If she hit the brakes as she testified, the car would not have traveled 6 miles before stopping.

When I took driver’s education many moons ago, we had an instructor that would simulate a stuck throttle by reaching over with his foot and pushing the gas to the floor. EVERY time we were able to easily bring the car to a stop with the brakes, even at full throttle. (the car didn’t seem to appreciate this treatment much though)

It might be a little trickier in winter weather with a rear wheel drive car though.

Most modern cars will just make a ratcheting sound until they reach about 3 MPH or so, then they will lurch to a stop. (don’t ask me how I know this–lol)

I saw a video from an Austrailian firm that demonstrated a device used to stop a run-away tractor-trailer rig. At the front of the trailer was a lenght of a “rubber” mat and it was all rolled up so that it was about 3 ft in diameter. In the event of a run-away the roll is un-rolled and the trailer tires run up on it and the truck stops. It is sort of like stepping on your shoelace.

I’m thinking a emergency trap door in the floor board so the car can be stopped like the Flintmobile.
Sorry :slight_smile:

Seriously, here is a Link to Consumers report How to stop a car with a stuck gas peddle

Take an automatic transmission car, hold the brake pedal down as firmly as possible, and then stomp on the accelerator. The car is not going to move because the engine can’t override the torque converter.

I’m of the opinion that at least a number of these people claiming runaway car suffered brain freeze during a panic situation; whether it was the car’s fault or theirs.

Just an example of brain freezes. Some years ago during one of my motorcycle trips to Sturgis SD I loitered around town on Sat. afternoon and decided to spend the evening in Deadwood, which is much more low key. As I was getting on my Harley and chatting with a couple of guys I saw a guy about 50 feet away that I had met the night before. He was about to kickstart his old HD Sportster.

He kicked, the aged gas line got knocked loose, and the contact points started the blaze when gas poured all over the place. He stumbled back and just stared; as did about 30 or 40 others who were close by. Not one person made a move.
I jumped off, went running over, and started throwing dirt by the handful onto the bike; aided at last by a Sturgis resident who was working in their backyard and jumped the fence to help.
The bike looked like burned garbage but at least it was going to be repairable enough to get him home, which was Idaho.

Point being here that dozens of people, including the bike owner, never made a move. Later that evening in Deadwood this incident just kept coming back to mind and continued to amaze me that all of these people (normally quick reacting biker types who are used to being a bit more alert) failed to react. Even the bike owner standing 10 feet away never raised a finger but he did thank me afterwards for saving his scooter; or at least preventing it from becoming a total loss.
Carry this kind of thing over to a runaway car… :frowning:

If she hit the brakes as she testified, the car would not have traveled 6 miles before stopping.

Back in the days of drum brakes, that would have been pretty plausible if one didn’t stand on the brakes immediately. Back in the 1930s and even the 1950s, braking capacity was definitely limited by heat build up and you could use it all if you could find a long enough hill.

Now that all(?) vehicles have front disks at least, I don’t see how unless the vehicle picked the same day to both have the accelerator stick and the brake power assist or master cylinder fail. Maybe … just maybe … if one went for miles applying the brakes gently and dithering … But my guess would be not.

Throw the shift lever into Neutral

Speaking only for myself, I’m skeptical that taking ones eyes off the road in an actual situation is going to seem like that great an idea. If I ever have an accelerator stick again (hasn’t happened for a couple of decades), I reckon that I’ll either brake to a stop in gear or do what I did last time and turn off the ignition. Neither steering nor braking were a significant problem then, and I can’t think why they would be now. It’d be a rare driver who has never had their engine simply quit once or twice in their driving career. Think back. Did you have any trouble steering or getting stopped last time that happened?

Now, if I were driving across the Bonneville salt flats at the time and didn’t need to worry about traffic and obstacles … then, maybe I’d go for Neutral.

Every driver should be able to find the Neutral position on his shift quadrant without taking his eyes off the road, IMHO. On most cars nowadays, it doesn’t require pushing a shift lock button, and merely pushing the lever forward slightly will put the trans into neutral without it going further into the Reverse or Park positions. Moving the shift lever forward slightly should not necessitate taking one’s eyes off the road.

Additionally, on virtually all cars except for the very cheapest econoboxes, there is a dashboard indicator for the position of the shift lever. If the driver in question was able to observe that her speedometer was at 100 mph or more, she would also be able to quickly see what gear her transmission was in.

Truthfully, the case of that woman who testified before Congress sounds like one more case of someone who is not familiar with either basic safety procedures or with the features of her own car. And, vtcodger, if you have an automatic trans on your car, I would suggest that you also learn how to put the shift lever into neutral without taking your eyes off the road. This is really not rocket science.

And, vtcodger, if you have an automatic trans on your car, I would suggest that you also learn how to put the shift lever into neutral without taking your eyes off the road. This is really not rocket science.

You’re certainly entitled to your opinions. I do not agree with them and do not find your arguments persuasive.