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Now you have to understand that my wife is the “just drive it” type, not real good at interpreting gauges and displays. Reaching the bottom of a two mile hill on a major highway she attempted to shift from ‘B’ back to ‘D’ but ended up in ‘N’, coincidentally, the last pip on the gas gauge had started flashing a short time prior to this. So upon losing power she wrongly concluded that she had run out of gas.
This happened, of course, in one of the worst of possible locations – at the bottom of the hill is a tunnel, on the other side of the tunnel is a bridge across the river to downtown Pittsburgh (Pittsburghers know this as Greentree Hill, Ft. Pitt Tunnel/Bridge). So she drifted through the tunnel and came to a stop on the bridge.
I am experiencing this via a frantic cell phone call. I told her to get to the safest place she could, stop driving the car ASAP, call AAA to bring her some gas. She is experiencing a totally dead gas pedal and just barely drifts to the side of the highway. Meanwhile PA DOT, quickly realizing that there is a disabled vehicle on the bridge, arrives with a tow truck and the requirement that the car be removed immediately.
After being towed to a safe place and while waiting for AAA we review the situation over the phone and realize what actually happened (she let AAA bring her the gas anyway because, well … what the heck else are ya gonna do now).
I blame this incident partly on the design of the Prius. It should not be possible to end up in ‘N’ that easily during normal operation, but it is very easy - just try it. Maybe ‘B’ should be a separate button, like ‘P’. I also wonder if this is behind some of the Prius “sudden death” experiences.
The outcome – no one hurt, Prius not damaged, lesson learned.
 

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I am surprised that a "just drive it" person would be using B-mode at all. It is hardly necessary in 99.9% of driving.
 

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Sorry about your experience, but KT Phil is right. "B" mode is for long mountain descents and really, really steep hills. (We've used it only five times in six months, and we drive quite a bit in the mountains.) For ordinary highway hills, it's much more efficient to touch the brake lightly - which doesn't engage the brake pads at all, but engages the main motor as a generator. You'll get some of that energy back, and there's no shifting.

Ironically, the reason it's so easy to end up in neutral is safety. If the car doesn't get a clear indication of what gear it's supposed to be in, or it gets a clear indication that's obviously wrong - e.g., if you try to put it in reverse at 60 mph - it defaults to neutral.
 

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Yea, You should blame it on the design of the Prius, if it makes you feel better. She had no business in "B" if she didn't know what she was doing. The manual is not that difficult to read!
 

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ANJ: This sounds like a Learning Experience or... Murphy's Law is alive and well. I'll bet it won't ever happen again (to your wife). No need to redesign the Prius.
 

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I haven't tried it even though the logic of the vehicle prevents it from happening, but if you move the selector up to R while moving forward, especially at a high rate of speed, the car should beep at you and put you in N. But I can also see your wife going from B to N, by atempting to move the lever to D, but resting at N too long.

I suggest this seriously and with all due respect; I think you should, or rather your wife should, sit in your garage or carport or wherever you park and with your foot on the brake go through all the driving positions and see what happens when you make different movements of the selector. I actually did that months ago out of curiosity and it has been very helpful over the long run.
 

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Err.. it isn't easy to go into N. To engage N, you actually have to HOLD it in position for a moment.
 

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Sorry that happened. I am sure she feels a bit foolish. I know I would.

Hope that it never happens again.
 

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Slipping into N hasn't happened to me yet, but I can't count the times when I'm pulling out of a parking spot and I've kicked it into D when I meant to back up and vice-versa - a holdover from my old stickshift days when 1st Gear was straight UP and Reverse was over and DOWN! That's the main reason I haven't tried to disable the backup beep. It lets me know when I've kicked it into the wrong gear before I start rolling!
 
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