To a drag racer, full throttle acceleration in a Toyota Matrix would hardly be cause for alarm - the car just isn't that fast.
But if your throttle does stick wide open, whether you're in a Toyota or any other car, it can be a scary thing.
The engine screams, the car surges forward, and even a low-powered car can feel like it's going pretty fast when it's in, for example, a shopping centre parking lot, as Sheila Manley was when her 2010 Matrix collided with a pile of firewood last October, which caused $4,000 worth of damage to her new car.
The firewood was largely undamaged.
If the throttle should stick wide open in your car, the hardest thing to remember is: don't panic.
The most important thing to remember is: the main objective is to not have a crash.
There are two ways to avoid a crash (any crash, actually):
1) Steer out of the way,
A car can change course with steering much faster than it can brake, so steering should be your first option. Ideally you want to do both, because if you must hit something, hitting it at a lower speed is always a better idea.
So, do NOT shut off the engine. That will kill the power assist to both the brakes and the steering, making it much more difficult to execute either corrective action.
If the car is an automatic, slam it into Neutral. If it's a manual, depress the clutch and again, select Neutral.
This will prevent the car from accelerating any faster, and make it easier for the brakes to stop the car.
Yes, the engine will race even faster, but most modern cars have rev limiters, and the engine won't blow up.
If you have an older car, and/or it does not have a rev limiter, blowing up the engine is still preferable to running into a school bus.
Check your rear-view mirrors to get an idea of the surrounding traffic. As appropriate, apply the brakes, flick on the four-way flashers if you have the time and the presence of mind, look for a place where you can safely pull over, and stop the car.
Then switch off the engine, flick on the four-ways if you haven't already, and take a deep breath.
Depending on where you have stopped, you may want to get out of the vehicle to find a safer place to wait for help.
Then call your roadside assistance supplier of choice.
This can all be very frightening, so it is a very good idea to simulate this scenario in an empty parking lot. With the car running at a slow speed, practice slipping the transmission lever into Neutral, making sure you don't accidentally slam it into Reverse, which again can be expensive.
If your car has one of those manual override shifters, remember that if the lever is in that "plus-minus" gate, you won't be able to select Neutral just by shoving the lever forwards. This issue has been implicated as a possible factor in at least one serious runaway acceleration case in the United States,
And if you have a Ford product with a console-mounted shifter, chances are you will have to depress the thumb button to move the lever out of Drive into Neutral. Get used to doing this because in a panic it won't be easy.
This is obviously an idiotic and dangerous design, especially now that this issue has reared its ugly head. I have whined about it constantly, beginning with the first time I recall encountering it which was probably back in the early 1980s in the Lincoln Mark VII. I have spoken to Ford transmission engineers about it; one of them didn't even know their shift linkages worked like this.
And they shouldn't.
Time - PAST time - to fix it, Ford.
A gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.