Your risk of dying from your Toyota’s unintended acceleration (UA) is so low as to be all but nil next to the more general risk of dying in an automobile, according to an “Opinionator” column in the New York Times, by journalist Robert Wright.
Wright calculates that your chance of dying from unintended acceleration in a Toyota is 2.8 in a million. Meanwhile, the average American’s chance of dying in a car accident over the next to years is one in 5,244, writes Wright. “So driving one of these suspect Toyotas raises your chances of dying in a car crash over the next two years from .01907 percent (that’s 19 one-thousandths of one percent, when rounded off) to .01935 percent (also 19 one-thousandths of one percent). (Methodology described in the article.)
Wright, who drives an ’05 Highlander, notes his suspicion that software is to blame for the UAs, and that he doesn’t particularly like the feel of electronic throttle control. But in examining the costs and benefits of cars that increasingly drive themselves, he says that even if electronic throttle control causes a few lives to be lost through unintended acceleration, it saves gasoline, reducing air pollution and global warming, and therein, saving some lives. Furthermore, the dollars saved can be spent to boost human welfare.
The thing that worries Wright is not the unintended acceleration, but irrational response to risk, such as that of terrorist attack, which can lead people to make mistakes, such as invading Iraq. “So go out and buy a Toyota,” he concludes. “It’s the patriotic thing to do.”