Braking Bad

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Some months back, Toyota was crucified in the mainstream media and in hearings before Congress (led primarily by representatives who had accepted campaign money from the United Auto Workers), in part for inexplicable and uncontrollable acceleration in its cars. People tearfully recounted stories about their Toyotas accelerating even as they pushed their brake pedals as hard as they could. This was presented to the public as another obvious reason to buy cars from Government Motors.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that those reports of uncontrollable acceleration are dubious. The DOT went over the information contained in data recorders from dozens of Toyotas involved in accidents purportedly caused by sudden acceleration, and found that in all of them, the throttles were wide open and the brakes unused at the time of the crash. It appears that the drivers in these accidents were jamming down the accelerator, while thinking they were hitting the brakes.

This isn’t a new phenomenon: 20 years ago, a similar rash of complaints was lodged against Audi, and the drivers were later found to have simply pushed the wrong pedal.

The DOT did the investigation, please note, with no advice from Toyota, either bout the selection of the crashes to investigate or the inter- pretation of the data.

Do I have to add the punch line? The mainstream media largely ignored the report.

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