Toyota question

We have a Toyota truck, which we use for most farm & marketing work. It’s covered under the massive recall recently issued for unwanted acceleration, or “sticky gas pedals”. I read today in the Washington Post that Federal Regulators are questioning whether the problem is in the engine electronics instead, meaning the gas pedal fixes won’t do anything.

This whole saga raises a question in my mind which I have not seen addressed in any article. In the situation in which a vehicle’s gas pedal sticks, or seems to stick, why can’t the driver simply shift into neutral, thus mechanically negating anything the engine is trying to do? My truck is a standard, which I’ve driven all my adult life. My instant reaction on an engine revving out of control would be to mash down on the clutch and let it do so, then shift into neutral.

I’m not as used to automatics; in fact when I do drive them I’ve caught myself nearly grabbing the shift column mid-drive. They have a neutral gear, but can you shift into it while driving? It would seem to me that you could, even if it’s counter-intuitive. Obviously this doesn’t help the actual problem, and wouldn’t help in short-span situations like the woman quoted in the WaPo article who claims her car accelerated into a tree from a parking-lot stop with no time to react. But I’m haunted by the story of the California cop and his family who drove ever-faster for eight miles with a runaway gas pedal, having time to call 911; is there an automotive reason they couldn’t have force-shifted into neutral?

Anyone know the answer? If that would work, why isn’t it all over the news as the most practical immediate advice to people in situations where that would at least help prevent death or serious injury though an accident may be inevitable?

2 thoughts on “Toyota question

  1. Hi Eric – the answer is yes, you can shift into neutral while driving an automatic transmission. Although not something you want to do all the time, it is actually what Toyota recommends that drivers do if they experience unintended acceleration. In theory you should be able to coast to a stop. Toyota is also saying not to turn the engine off, because you will lose the power steering. – Megan

  2. Megan,Thanks for that. I suppose it would have been smart for me to look at Toyota's website for info; I've just been so surprised that the media in general haven't mentioned this that it didn't occur to me.Do defensive-driving classes cover such things?