Like many people who drive a car with an automatic transmission, I rarely use my parking brake.
Just throw into park, right?
Earlier this month, a Massachusetts mom found out why. According to reports, Mindy Tran had buckled her twin 2-year-old daughters in the back seat of her Honda Accord when she remembered she forgot to lock the front door of her house. Tran placed the car’s transmission into “park,” but as she exited the vehicle, it began to roll away, down the steep driveway, towards a busy highway. She scurried to stop the car, but the weight was more than the young mother could handle.
“I wasn’t going to be able to hold it any longer, so I laid down,” she said. “With the traffic, I knew I had to stop it.”
That’s right. She threw herself in front of the car.
While this mother’s quick and selfless actions are to be commended, this accident could have been prevented.
Always use your parking brake
Regular use of the parking brake is a good idea because it reduces wear and tear on the parking pawl – a metal pin or lever that mechanically locks the transmission and prevents the wheels from turning. In fact, manufacturers frequently recommend setting the parking brake before shifting the transmission into “park.”
Remember that parking on any incline, no matter how steep, can put considerable pressure on the parking pawl. Never attempt to stop a moving vehicle by putting the transmission into the park position because the pawl can sheer off under pressure.
It’s the law
As in many states, here in Ohio, there are rules regarding unattended vehicles. In addition to setting the parking brake, section 4511.661 of the Ohio Revised Code provides:
No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, effectively setting the parking brake, and, when the motor vehicle is standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.
Luckily for Mindy Tran, now dubbed the “human speed bump” by the press, a neighbor was on hand to assist her and the children in their time of need. When firefighters arrived, they were able to lift the car off her body by using an air bag. She was then airlifted to a nearby hospital.
While there are no indications that her car suffered from a damaged parking pawl, her story serves as a reminder how a few preventative measures can help avert a tragedy.
“Mass. mom saves children by throwing herself in front of runaway car” by Lori Grisham, USA TODAY Network, Detroit Free Press, March 19, 2014.