By on May 26, 2010

The NHTSA went through their database again and found 89 deaths possibly linked to sudden acceleration of Toyotas within the last 10 years.

From 2000 to mid-May, the NHTSA received more than 6,200 complaints about sudden acceleration in Toyota cars. The reports allege 89 deaths and 57 injuries over the same period. Previously, 52 deaths had been suspected of being connected to the problem, says Bloomberg.

With such carnage, one would assume that the NHTSA is beating down the doors of the bereaved to “get into the weeds” of the matter, as Secretary LaHood fancies to say.

No such door-to-door canvassing so far. NHTSA administrator David Strickland said at last week’s congressional hearing that his people “had spoken to nearly 100 vehicle owners who said they had unintended acceleration following a recall fix but NHTSA had not seen pedal entrapment or sticky accelerators in any vehicles that have been properly repaired,” says Bloomberg.

In a comment, Toyota said that “many complaints in the NHTSA database, for any manufacturer, lack sufficient detail that could help identify the cause of an accident.”

That is putting it mildly. We have said it in March, at the height of the Toyota witch hunt, and so far nobody contradicted us: The NHTSA complaint database is utterly useless. Anybody can file on-line complaints at NHTSA without a VIN number. Try it. With any car make you hate. Anybody can give a bogus email and a likewise bogus physical address. There is no on-line checking. Want 100 deaths more? It can be done in a few minutes. Without shedding blood.

Today for instance, there is a complaint about a 2010 Nissan GT-R. It’s from someone who did read in Autoblog that a Nissan burst into flames in a dealer showroom: “NISSAN GTS BURNS AT DEALER (HTTP://WWW.AUTOBLOG.COM/2010/05/25/REPORT-NISSAN-GT-R-GOES-UP-IN-FLAMES-WHILE-PARKED-IN-LOCKED-SHO/) A LOAD OF NISSANS BURNED UP ON HWY 98 ABOUT 5 MILES EAST OF HATTIESBURG MISS.. ARE THEY RELATED????” 

There is a May 20, 2010 report about a death that occurred on May 22, 2000 – ten years ago.

As long as every complaint, especially the ones alleging death or bodily harm, is not properly followed up, as long as unverifiable reports are not immediately thrown out, as long as people who make false claims are not brought to justice for defamation or worse, these numbers belong in one place only: The garbage bin at the NHTSA. If raw, unverified data are published, the NHTSA could perpetuate lies and may become an accessory to fraud.

If you fancy conspiracies, then remember that Bloomberg had reported in March that 59 of 110 fatalities attributed to sudden acceleration in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records occurred in vehicles made by other companies. The data had been compiled for Bloomberg News by the NHTSA. That was over 30 years.  Now it’s suddenly 89 deaths on the side of Toyota, in 10 years? Are we confused yet? If the NHTSA can’t do a proper body count from a questionable database, what can they do?

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11 Comments on “Confused NHTSA Revises Toyota Body Count...”


  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    It’s getting harder and harder NOT to believe that the NHTSA are involved in a politically motivated exercise. I would have said ‘witch-hunt’, implying that Big-T are the object of their wrath but I concede it may just be that Secretary LaHood is trying to compensate for either i) poor past performance or ii) future funding increases.

    Whatever it is, it seems both clumsy and pernicious to me.

  • avatar

    I compare DaHood to any other product of the Chicago political machine. He’s nothing but a wannabe gangster hood, who desired even more blood so he got into politics.

    The good news is, the more Ray-boy speaks, the less anyone seems to take him seriously.

  • avatar
    ott

    LOVE the freezeframe of Sikes. Sums up his story perfectly.

  • avatar
    Mailbox20

    I don’t remember this as part of the congressional hearings, but is it the automaker’s responsibility to use the NHTSA database for their customer service/warranty/recall activities? I whole-heartedly agree with the don’t publish comment. NHTSA database needs some kind of moderator that sees all claims, but publishes only those that have been verified.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    I’m personally surprised at how blatant the NHTSA has become.

    They obviously know the shortcomings of their online complaint database better then anyone else. That any conclusion needs to be evidence-based and not by unverified or dubious accounts taken from the internet.

    This is a fundamental concept in any field, and the fact that the NHTSA so unashamedly ignores their own principle and makes these public announcement really does indicate a “witch hunt” based on political motivations. Quite frankly it lacks subtlety.

  • avatar

    How the (^$^&*$ can you go 31 miles and not stop your car! This guy is an idiot who needs to hang up his keys and move into a retirement residence. I had a 74 Newport and a 77 Lincoln that the accelerator pedal would stick under certain circumstances-the Newport after a cold snap and the Lincoln when disengaging the cruise control. It was simple-hit the brakes hard and throw it into neutral and pull over. Duh!

  • avatar

    “…these numbers belong in one place only: The garbage bin at the NHTSA. If raw, unverified data are published, the NHTSA could perpetuate lies and may become an accessory to fraud.”
    + THIS
    The fraud factor should not be underestimated. Given the current NTHSA implementation some guerrilla marketing action to weaken competitors could easily be orchestrated.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    So the NHTSA ‘data’ could be about as reliable as a blog?

    I say this to elevate blogs, not to disparage NHTSA. :)

    • 0 avatar

      We fact-check our posts. Then, they are mercilessly peer-reviewed by the Best & Brightest. If elevated to the standards of the complaint database, our life and work would be considerably easier: We could just sit in front of the computer and make things up. May the best fantasy win.

  • avatar
    Mailbox20

    Quick review of current complaint file. 26/85 complaints had no VIN (total of 43 deaths). Most interesting one #10319880: 2005 Corolla suddenly sped up to 30 mph without applying the gas. Fail date = 19730401. 10 deaths reported.

  • avatar

    Good catch, mailbox 20.

    It’s here in all its glory: http://projects.latimes.com/nhtsa/10319880/

    A crash that happened in the city of “City”. 10 injuries, 10 deaths, crash and fire, an accident that happened on April 1, 1973 in a 2005 Toyota Corolla.


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