Turkey Tracks: December 23, 2020
An “Unintended” Wild Car Ride
Last Monday late afternoon, I had an “unintended” backwards wild ride in the Subaru. It lasted only 4 to 5 seconds, but I landed in a deep snowy ditch filled with water—and that was a blessing as the car didn’t hit something (people, another car, a tree) that would have been far worse.
I was backing out of a friend’s driveway on Start Road, and as I slowly backed out of the driveway to get to the place where I could see if anything was coming down the road, suddenly I was thrown backwards as the car went full bore speed backwards. I didn’t know this car could go that fast in such a short time. Before I could take a breath and in about 4 to 5 seconds the car went runaway out over the road and into the ditch—engine still racing full bore until I got the car in park and turned it off.
I might have braked. I don’t know. It happened so fast and was the most surreal feeling. But braking would not have stopped the car in what is known as an “unintended acceleration” occurrence.
My friend came out of the garage where he was working to help me get out of the car—it was listing to the driver side into the ditch so I had to crawl out over the passenger seats and grab his helping hand. AC doggie was with me with no winter coat as we were just going to drop off a check and have a little outing and it was still not crazy cold. I had to get his harness out of the far side of the car and get him into it and find his leash.
We called AAA, and my friend took me inside to stay warm and sat with me until the tow truck came—two hours later and in the now total dark. AAA towed the car to Dan Foshay’s Cooper Tires in town, and my friend took me home.
In thinking about it, there was an incident with the engine racing a while back, maybe even a year ago, but I was stopped at the mailbox and facing up a steep hill, it somehow stopped without further incident. I don’t remember what I did at the time to stop it. And there were at least 2 incidents when starting the car in the garage where the engine raced, but not as powerfully and the car was in park.
I tossed and turned all that night and at some point realized I would never get in that car again and that I had to take responsibility for getting it off the road—mixed with profound feelings of luck that no one had been hurt.
I wrote my two sons and DILs the next morning, and the older son wrote right back with research about these “unintended accelerations” in Subarus. I, too, started to research. Apparently there are two class-action suits now pending in courts over this issue. AND, there have been other cars with this kind of issue in past years—Toyota for one. Toyota was eventually fined a substantial amount of money.
It is a computer problem—with a sporadic glitch between the braking and acceleration systems. When it happens, the brake will not work to stop the car.
There are also videos out there on what to do if you have more time than 4 to 5 seconds to react. First, you do brake as hard as you can and you don’t remove your foot from the brake. Then you put the car into neutral—do not turn it off yet as you will lose steering and braking power which makes the car hard to handle manually. The car should coast to stop, and then you can turn it off.
After a lot of help from the people at Dan Foshay’s, for which I am very grateful, my car was towed on Wednesday to a used car dealer who agreed to use it for parts and who would give me a fair check for the car. This car was a one-owner car and though 10 years old was just below 60K miles. If the used car dealer is tempted to sell the car, that will be on them. I’ve done what I can.
In this holiday season, I am so grateful for luck, family, friends, and kind community people who helped me through this problem.