Ray Elliott is a veteran tow truck driver in the San Francisco Bay Area who also publishes the website idiotsontheinterstate.com. In addition to his vast expertise helping motorists, he posts commentaries and videos that ideally define his online platform’s name.
Elliott has twice been a guest on The Weekly Driver Podcast and the subject of a column I wrote several months ago for the San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times. He knows the industry from a unique perspective. It’s when vehicles aren’t running properly after breakdowns or involvement in accidents.
Elliott disagrees with two of my selections and his reasons make sense. With his permission to repost, here’s his email:
“I read your top-10 list today and I must severely disagree with two of your choices. In fact, the Chrysler Pacifica, would be my choice of top-ten most dangerous cars ever. Let me enlighten you.
“I came across a two-week-old Pacifica that was overheating, on a freezing cold day, none the less. The van would start, but it had a frosted over the windshield, so to move it, I rolled down the driver’s window so I could stick my head out and see.
“I put the van in drive, released the electric parking brake and started to go forward. I stuck my head out the window, resulting in my butt lifting off the seat. The van sensed I was not in the seat, thus it put itself in park and set the brake resulting in a sudden stop and slamming my neck against the door pillar. I tried a second time with the same result. I tried just pushing the car with the engine off, but the same thing happened when I got out of the driver’s seat.
“This is so dangerous. What if the car stalls in traffic? The operator will never be able to push the van to a safe place. You are now stuck, blocking traffic, screwing up the whole highway, risking getting hit.
“The other scary-dangerous thing about the Pacifica is the spare tire. Having a spare tire is now an option, so if the van has one, good luck finding it, let alone access it. Releasing the spare can result in damage to your dash, and it must be taken from its hiding space via the driver’s side, into traffic.
“If your driver’s side front tire is flat, you can’t get it out safely, if at all. You must jack up the van, then crawl under it to get the spare. If the jack fails, you die, and your legs are sticking out into traffic. And the spare is a doughnut, so it will be flat anyway.
“The other vehicle is the GMC Sierra. Now, granted, my example is with a Chevy 1500, but they are essentially the same trucks. My encounter was a 2019 Chevy that had stalled in the roadway. It was the second time this happened to this truck. Pushing the start button would power up the truck, but it wouldn’t turn the motor over.
“I could put the transmission in neutral and release the electric parking brake, but when I got out of the truck, it set the brake. Sitting in the middle of a major roadway (El Camino Real), fighting this stupid brake is so dangerous. How does one move one’s dead car to a safe place if you can’t make it roll? Let alone load it onto a flatbed tow truck.
“Automakers need to understand how unsafe electric parking brakes, electronic shifters, and push-starts are and go back to mechanical options. Cars should not think for me! And ALL cars should have a full-size spare tire that is easily accessible. All the other cars, I can mostly agree with you. Keep up the good work, James and Happy New Year. Your friend and colleague, Ray Elliott.”
I respect Elliott’s opinions and recommend visiting his website, idiotsontheinterstate.com.