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Prius Issues – Worry or Ignore?

So we own a Prius. We’ve had it since November of 2003, purchased as soon as the new body redesign was announced. Paid in cash. Full price. Have loved it for over 6 years now and never had a major issue with it.

Now, with the issue of the recalls and sudden acceleration of the Prius driven by the gentleman in California, we are a bit worried about driving it. Suzanne and I would rather play it safe and transport the children in the Odyssey Mini-van and then have the other driver use the Prius (we take turns dropping the kids off at school).

It’ seems to me an irrational concern; however, it takes one incident such as the incident above or the one involving the fatal accident of the California State Trooper and his family to put you and your loved ones in danger. So, given that we are on the money savings bandwagon, and given that we pay for our cars in full (We hate owing money – our only debt is our mortgage) we’re in a frustrating place. We don’t have the money to buy for a new car right now but we’re scared of the car we have. Logically, the odds are minimal but we can veer from calm to hysteria faster than the Prius can accelerate so we can either bite the bullet and take out a car loan (I shudder just saying that) or hope that we don’t have the issue or they can fix it soon (although Toyota still doesn’t have an understanding of sudden acceleration issues in the Prius). If we can stay the course vis-à-vis our savings, we should have enough in the bank by the end of the year to buy a new car. the question is, should we wait that long?

As for what we’re looking at, we will probably stick to Hondas and Nissans as that’s what we’ve had the most luck with. Since we live in an area that receives a lot of snow, a CR-V or a Murano are possibilities, as are a Crosstour, and a Pilot. We do try to be observant of gas mileage so the likelihood of getting a LARGE SUV is very minimal. We would also look at the Civic, the Altima and the Accord. We’ll see.

If you ARE ever in a car that experiences sudden acceleration, you can use some of the practical suggestions below (found on pr-inside.com)

“When drivers don’t have time to think through their various options and the possible consequences, they can make mistakes which are fatal to themselves, their innocent passengers, and to people in other vehicles,” public interest law professor John Banzhaf (who has written on and litigated about vehicle safety) says. The very fact that there have been so many sudden-acceleration situations shows that many people do not know how to take the simple steps which in most cases could prevent a serious accident.

If confronted with a sudden-acceleration situation, drivers should:
(1) brake hard without pumping;
(2) shift into neutral (or depress the clutch);
(3) turn off the ignition only once fully stopped.

“BRAKE, SHIFT, TURNOFF” is a simple message people can remember and follow, Banzhaf says.

As Consumer Reports [CR] has demonstrated with actual tests, even vehicles with stuck throttles can often be stopped or at least considerably slowed by pushing hard on the brake, perhaps with both feet. But, warns CR, don’t pump the brakes because this could lose the power assist and make it difficult to stop the car.

Shifting into neutral (or depressing the clutch) will immediately stop the engine’s power from being transmitted to the wheels, and allow the brakes to bring the car to a quick stop. This one simple step, which takes only a second at most, should prevent most sudden-acceleration situations from becoming serious accidents.

However, since switching from DRIVE to NEUTRAL at highway speed is an unusual maneuver, and may require first releasing an un-locking device on the shift lever or elsewhere at least on some vehicles, drivers, especially owners of vehicles at risk, might want to practice this simple step several times at moderate speeds on uncrowded roads. A few practice runs will help assure that drivers will react quickly and correctly in an emergency, and instill confidence rather than panic.

Indeed, if drivers act suddenly in panic, they might think that turning off the ignition would help by stopping the engine, but this maneuver could be very dangerous for several reasons. If the engine is suddenly shut off, the driver might lose both power-assisted steering and braking, making it impossible to avoid an accident.

Also, warns Prof. Banzhaf, in turning the key in the ignition, the driver could easily go too far and engage the automatic steering-wheel lock which helps guard against theft once the vehicle is parked, a mistake which would make it impossible for even the strongest driver to steer the car away from obstacles, pedestrians, etc.

So, on cars with a key ignition, it’s important not to try to turn the engine off by turning the key in order to stop the acceleration, he says.

In the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

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