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Fancy Gadgets Pose Safety Hazards for Drivers


A recent article by suggests drivers are disoriented and have problems deciding what to do in an emergency with cars that display fancy technology and controls such as keyless ignition. In fact in the BMWiDrive, the control functions for the radio and air conditioning were so baffling that if forced drivers to take their eyes off the road.

Shifting from neutral to drive or reverse isn’t what it used to be. Drivers now have to push a button to start their car and most drivers are unprepared for what to do in the event of an emergency.

According to MSNBC, an off-duty California Highway Patrolman and his family were killed when his rental Lexus ES350 sedan accelerated suddenly and crashed into rush hour traffic at 120 mph. Toyota blames the accident on the accelerator pedal, but the deaths are also a major factor in not being able to control a modern car. We used to be able to shift the car into neutral or turn off the engine. However, the driver of the Lexus was unable to shift the car into neutral or switch off the engine because with the ES350’s engine, you would have to press and hold the “Stop/Start” button for three seconds, an action that is not obvious and could be difficult to accomplish at high speeds. Another problem is that Lexus’s shifter is curved and not the typically expected straight line.

Consumer Reports immediately put into action a five fixes plan for carmakers following this incident. They suggest that auto manufactures:

  • Make it simpler to turn off the engine in an emergency;
  • Require a minimum distance between the gas pedal and the floorboard;
  • Engineer cars so a sustained braking force can stop a car in a reasonable distance even with the accelerator pedal fully depressed;
  • Require sufficient brake pedal pressure before a car can be shifted from Park;
  • Simplify shifting into Neutral.

Consumer Reports states that “finding Neutral should be intuitive and obvious, but the advent of gated and electronic shifters can make finding Neutral in a panic confusing. You shouldn’t have to read the owners manual to figure out how to use the shifter.”

What can the consumer do until some of these problems are worked out:

  • Read your owner’s manual carefully;
  • Sit in your vehicle, with the owner’s manual and physically work through the various operations of the gadgets in the car;
  • Become very familiar with the shifting mechanism in your car;
  • Know how to shift to neutral in the event of sudden acceleration;
  • Test your braking system in an empty parking lot — try fast stops;
  • Never turn off the ignition in the event of sudden acceleration. In most cars, this locks the steering or makes steering much more difficult;
  • Never use your cell phone while driving, unless you have hands free operation;
  • Never text while driving.

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