Wings of the Tern Blog

March 13, 2010

Emergency Procedures for Everyone

Filed under: Current Posting — wingsofthetern @ 3:13 pm

The recent trend in stuck pedals on Toyota vehicles has caused me to reflect on the types of emergency procedures that everyone should review.  Aviators, study and think about what to do in an emergency situation before it occurs.  That way, if or when it should occur, they know how to handle it.  Such preparation saved my beacon when I flew into a wire and was how Captain Sullenberger was able to ditch his airliner in the Hudson River with no loss of life.

While a stuck pedal is a relatively rare occurrence, it does happen on occasions.  The risk of a floor mat or other foreign object jamming a pedal is present on all cars, not just Toyotas.  There are other emergencies that take unnecessary lives each year in this country that occur much more frequently.

During the years that I flew EMS, the most common accident, other than drunk driving, was single car rollovers.  The common scenario goes like this:  Due to some distraction, a driver allows his or her vehicle to go off the road onto a soft shoulder.  The car pulls to the right and the driver over controls to the left, which results in a rollover.  Often fatal!   The one fatal accident, that I remember the most, happened to a housewife on her way home from a shopping trip in town.  She was driving a yellow jeep.  From the debris in the road, we could see that she had been shopping and there were a number of new children’s games laying about.  If only someone had reviewed with her what to do in such a situation, the conscience thought off “Don’t over control” might have allowed her to safely get back into her lane without incident.  Her children would be playing those games with her instead of now being motherless.

After I read one recent report of a run away Toyota Prius, I realized that, I also, have been remise in reviewing emergency procedures.  Sure, I have always known that one should put in the clutch and take the car out of gear (on my Miata), put a vehicle with an automatic transmission into neutral or turn off the key, but I have not kept up with technology.  The one report that triggered my concern was that the driver of one of the cars had tried to push the button to turn off the car, without success.  My immediate thought was: “hay – my Altima has a button.  I wonder if I can turn the car off while driving?”

I’m not that familiar with the system on the Prius, but on my Altima, it will sense if a key is in range, like in a purse, pocket (or in my case) on my belt.  If so, all one has to do is press the ignition button to start the car.

The next time I was on a drive by myself, I checked out some procedures.  First, while driving down a road at about sixty mph, I went to put the car in neutral (children – don’t try this without adult supervision).  I realized, that since I always park the car in “Park”, I wasn’t even sure where neutral was without looking down at the gear arrangement.  It was one notch forward of Drive.  Since most of the time, I drive in the manual mode, that means that I have to move the shifter to the right to “D”, then forward one notch to “N”.  I tried it out and the car went smoothly into neutral.

Next, I began to hit the ignition button to shut the engine off.  I kept hitting the button with no effect.  “That’s not a good thing”, I thought.  After some experimentation, I figures out that, while repeatedly hitting the button would do nothing, holding the button down for three seconds would, in fact, shut the engine  off.  I also noticed, that at higher speeds, the power steering remained on, but at slow speeds, it went off.  The car was still steerable even without the power steering though.

That evening, I discussed my findings with Lydia. I began by asking her what she would do if the pedal stuck.  Her first response was to hit the parking brake.  Since the Altima’s parking brake is a pedal that has to be pressed down, the brake is basically on or off and is not easily adjusted.  My concern was that this could possibly lock up the rear wheels which could put the car out of control.  I love the parking brake on the Miata.  It is a lever just to my right and just to the rear of the shifter.  It is easily adjustable.  I use it a lot when putting the car in gear while parked on steep hills.  I wish all parking brakes where like that.  Anyway, after we discussed all, I was confident that both Lydia and I would be ready should this emergency occur on either of our shifts behind the wheel.

This weeks featured airplane (Aircraft Page) is the Mooney Mite (Referenced page 12 in book)


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