TOYOTAS, SMALL CARS, AND RALPH NADER
STUCK GAS PEDAL
(9/15/2009)

Out of respect for the feelings of the families and friends of those killed when their gas pedals stuck, causing a fatal crash, I hesitated to put my two cents worth into the discussion, but now I must. Why? Because it may save lives.

AIRPORT

In July of 1969, on the radio, complete with zooming airplane sounds in the back ground, I simultaneously advertised the first (of my 20) bookstore openings and the paperback publishing of the blockbuster book "Airport" by Arthur Hailey. 

The local disk jockey sat in his mobile broadcast booth in our parking lot and shouted "We're here at The Book Company celebrating  zoooooooooooooommm 
the grand opening of . . . . . . you get the picture.

I had read Hailey's book in between the smattering of customers that day and later saw the movie - a huge hit (remember old Helen Hayes as Ada Quonsett smacking the panicky passenger?) In both, the air traffic controller, Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster), was haunted by the memory of a 747 hitting a Piper Cub and killing the family of four aboard, while ole Mel was manning the controls at air traffic control. Belatedly noticing an unregistered Piper Cub approaching the flight pattern of the 747, Mel grabbed the mike and (paraphrased):

Mel: Piper 1-5-7, Piper 1-5-7, pull up to 3,600 now !! Pull up now !!

Piper 157:Ummmm  ..... air traffic, can you repeat that?

Mel: Pull up now, pull up now ! !

Piper 157:Uh  .  .  control  . .  .  .  .  I don't understand  .  .  why do you want . . booooooomm.

Piper 157: Ahhhhhh . . . . . . .  daddy, daddy what's happening? And so forth.

It's haunted me for years. Why are people so stupid? I know it's only a story, but it's analogous to real life situations. Faced with imminent danger, some people just do not know how to respond.

If your gas pedal sticks, it's scary, especially if you are on the highway already doing 70 mph.If my gas pedal stuck, would I know what to do ? Yes.

EXPERIENCE
 
I've owned cars where the gas pedal stuck. Sometimes the carpet runs up underneath the pedals. Usually I just got used to pulling the carpet back when I got in the car, or on long hauls, pulled the carpet back with my heels. 

I owned at least one car where the gas pedal became stuck often enough, due to the pedal bending - caused, the dealer said, by someone often stomping the accelerator down on my 1969 Mach 1 Mustang; the implication being that someone might be drag racing. Humphh, I only used this family car to go to the grocery store and church.

Anyway, if it stuck, THAT car accelerated like a rocket, and I kicked the pedal sharply once or twice and it became unstuck. Wits about you comes in handy in times like these, and instincts are a big help. Of course, gas pedals are not designed to be so simple now days (and why is that?) What should you do? We'll get to that.





DRIVERS' EDUCATION

Back in the day, if you wanted a driver's license before the ancient age of 18, Driver's Education was mandatory. Then, Driver's Education was a serious business, taught by serious teachers. My teacher, Mr Gottschall was a red-faced meany with no sense of humor (who by the way was a passenger in a car whose driver, another Drivers' Ed Teacher fell asleep at the wheel and lost a foot in the ensuing accident). Sense of humor is hard to come by when you take to the road every day with a few dozen, inexperienced, dumb student drivers at the wheel, so I understood.

If you screwed up in that class, especially on the road driving part, you flunked and had to take the entire class over again (ask Walkin' Roberta Albert, CEO of a chain of retail beauty salons). You learned defensive driving, and one of the things you learned was what to do in an emergency - like the gas pedal getting stuck.

LIBERALISM

Today, few states require Driver's Education. Additionally, with the huge influx of immigrants, we have people driving two-ton automobiles whose main source of transportation was a mule on a dirt road just weeks before. Many who are here illegally not only have few driving skills, but also no driver's license or insurance. 

Those who do take classes find that the standards have been greatly reduced, and that they can miss up to half of their classes. The "entrepreneurs" who run the Driver Ed Schools, who now handle the bulk of Driver's Ed training and certification survive on tuitions and referrals, not failures.Many people behind the wheel of a car these days are clueless to the simple basics of driving that we all took for granted while toiling under the auspices of the red-faced Mr. Gottschall. 

Why are we so lax? Because liberals feel sorry for people who can't enjoy the "right" to drive - it's unfair. They don't see driving as a privilege, but as a "right." (When do we want it ? Now). I'll bet you most of those drivers killed or injured in Toyotas were liberals - it's a gut feeling.

EXPERTS

To follow up on some really dumb advice from Gregg Jarrett earlier in the week concerning the (recorded) incident wherein 4 people were killed because of a stuck Toyota gas pedal,  Fox News today (Feb. 10, 2010) interviewed Automobile Industry "Expert," (my quotes) Lauren Fix who explained some of the things I mentioned about Driver's Ed, and opined the following to prevent an accident from a stuck brake pedal (paraphrased): Turn off the ignition. While braking might be difficult pump the brakes until you stop. (FYI - steering becomes very difficult too). 

She further advised to use the emergency brake.

A 9-1-1 dispatcher took a call from a panicked driver of a Toyota with three passengers - one a police officer - aboard (paraphrased)

Dispatcher:9-1-1 what's your emergency ?

Toyota:     Our gas pedal is stuck and we're going 125 miles-per-hour ! !

Dispatcher:       Uh, what's your location ?

Toyota:             What ?

Dispatcher:       Where are you ?

Toyota:             A . . .Um . . . we're on highway 152 (?), we just passed . . .  oh my God the sign says "highway ends 1/2 mile) ! !

Toyota:             (people in the car screaming) We're going to crash. Bammmmm.

SO, WHY AM I PISSED?

Because this didn't need to happen. First, the dispatcher should have been more cognitive of the time involved and could have acted more quickly. After all it's 9 - 1 - 1. He IS emergency. He should have known what the driver should do, and he should have dispensed with the formalities ( where the Toyota is located is irrelevant ) and told the panicked driver immediately what to do (Pull up Piper 157, Pull up ! !)

Second, it's incomprehensible how four people in a car didn't have a clue as to how to stop the car - especailly if one, as reported, was a policeman trained for emergencies.

Finally, stop listening to experts. With all due to Ms Fix (if any is due), her advice sucks.

(1) Flip the car into neutral - it's simple. The brakes and steering will continue working. (2) Brake.(3) Pull over THEN turn the ignition  off (before your engine blows).

Update February 12, 2010 : I decided to try the turn off ignition, myself, and it worked. Hard to steer, but workable.

Update, Update, Feb 5, 2011: The New York Times reports that the U.S. Government investigations have stated categorically that there is nothing wrong with the gas pedal designs on the Toyotas, and that none of the accidents were attributed to Toyota.

So, when will Congressional committees, and their grandstanding members who hauled Toyota before their inquisitions be scheduling more hearings to apologize? Where does Toyota, once the worlds' best-selling car, go to get its reputation back?
LEMON PICKER
(THANKS AGAIN TO MAXINE AND MARTY J. WHITE)

The woman applying for a job in a Florida lemon grove 
seemed to be far too qualified for the job.
 
The foreman frowned and said, "I have to ask you this:
"Have you had any actual experience in picking lemons?"
 


"Well, as a matter of fact, I have! 
 
 

"I've been married three times, owned 2 Toyotas, and I voted for Obama." 
RALPH NADER AND THE CORVAIR

Back in 1959, when gas was selling for $.25 cents a gallon and 14 years before anyone had any inkling of a gas shortage, Chevrolet came up with the idea of manufacturing a "compact car" similar to small European cars, that would be energy efficient. They called it the Corvair. It sold like hotcakes. Within two years Ford came out with its competing Falcon. 

My Dad, a General Motors Engineer, bought one of the first Corvairs, the one-design four door model, and we all enjoyed driving it. In 1963, I purchased an improved 1962 Corvair two door. My cousin's husband bought the new turbo-charged SPyder, and blew everyone off the track at the Martin Speedway in Grand Rapids, MI. A good time was had by all.

In 1964, Ralph Nader, an unknown young lawyer wrote a book, Unsafe at any Speed,  a book containing substantial references and material from industry insiders, detailing resistance by car manufacturers to the introduction of safety features, like seat belts, and their general reluctance to spend money on improving safety. Nader decried the design, particularly the rear end assembly, and carped that the rear tires were calibrated to have more PSI than the fron tires (Of course it was a rear-engine car, so it was heavier in the rear, but details, details). Chapter One featured the Corvair, and subsequently got the most attention and publicity.

Nader's book was a huge seller, and Nader became a somebody as the first "consumer advocate." Full disclosure, I almost rolled my Corvair trying to impress a girl with the (non-existent, as it turned out ) handling capabilities of the car.

As a result of the book, the Corvair was discontinued in 1965, and the Big - 3 ( With the exception of the outstanding 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang, which I promptly purchased) concentrated once again on manufacturing big gas guzzlers. Many say Nader ruined America's fledging small-car industry to the end of advancing his career. Whatever.

In the ensuing years, Toyota introduced its compact car into the USA Market and the awful quality introduced the slogan "Made In Japan" into our vocabulary. For years, Consumer Report rated the Toyota (by far) as the least safe automobile sold in the United States. So, did Ralph Nader follow up with "Unsafe at any Speed II ?" No, in fact while the quality of the Toyota was responsible for innumerable fatalities, and an enormous number of breakdowns and repairs, the Dilettante Ralph Nader said nothing.

Not only was Mr. Nader the father of consumer advocacy (a good thing), but also he was the precursor of the Anti-American American - the Progressive who sees fault in every facet of American businesses, but ignores even the most obvious faults of consumer products from America's foreign competitors.

In light of his lack of objectivity, one can certainly question Mr. Nader's motives in singling out American cars as being Unsafe at any Speed.
STUCK PEDAL CAUSES CRASH
(November 29, 2009)

A woman backed out of her driveway in Orlando, Florida and the gas pedal stuck, says she. The car lurched backward and struck a tree across the street. Recent defects in Toyota gas pedals were ruled as probable causes, according to Orlando police.

Lady, you and Tiger Woods can pedal that crap to stupid people, and that's a whole lot of people, but when you sober up, please come clean.

In the past car floor mats  tended to slide up under the pedals causing some inconvenience, and requiring any sober driver to dig in their heels and pull the floor mats back. A simple adjustment of the mats upon entering the car was further advisable - you know, like turning on the ignition or the radio - it's not rocket science.

Most cars today have a hook mounted into the floor, that attaches to an eyehook in the floor mat - voila ! no slipping. I'll bet Toyota has those too (I'm guessing).

In the spirit of piling onto Toyota, numerous other "accidents" have been reported blaming Toyota's stuck gas pedal as the cause. "Experts" (no doubt with taxpayer funding) have cited several design flaws to explain the pedal problems.

While a former owner of three Toyotas who is no fan of Toyotas, I doubt very much that the gas pedals are defective at all, and that the media hype (especially Foxnews), and public hysteria are entirely unwarranted. Further, for those on air opinion givers (like Sean Hannity) who rail against foreign car makers, I might remind you that Toyotas are manufactured right here in the USA, by American Workers.

Knock it off.