By on October 13, 2010

Remember Toyota’s alleged sudden acceleration? And the hysteria surrounding it? Dubious databases were searched for dead bodies. The Secretary of Transportation himself recommended to stop driving your Toyota, and to drive it to the dealer instead – very carefully. Luckless swing club entrepreneurs took to driving a Prius instead, brakes smoking. Lawyers around the nation had wet dreams involving a Gulfstream V (or a 80 foot Sunseeker as a fall-back position.) As nothing of substance was found, the NHTSA asked the august body of the National Academy of Sciences to find the ghost in the machine.

Don’t even bother to look, it’s a worthless search. That’s what Paul Fischbeck, a professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, told the National Academy of Sciences.

The risk of dying in a traffic crash is 1.05 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, says Fischbeck. Analyzing the 2.3 million Toyota vehicles recalled for sticky pedals, Fischbeck said if all of them remained unfixed and on the road, the risk of dying would rise to 1.07 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. People have problems with large numbers, so Fischbeck puts it in perspective:

“If you canoe for half-a-mile you incur a 2-in-a-million risk of dying,” Fischbeck says. “Walking for 10 miles is about the same.”

Canoes must be immediately impounded. They are a menace to society.

According to Fischbeck, who is cited in a Detroit News article, the risk of dying while walking along the road is 19 times higher than that of driving in a recalled, but unfixed Toyota.

Walking along the road must immediately stop.

Fischbeck says it’s important to put the risk of sudden acceleration in context.

For instance, if you drive around in an unfixed Toyota for a whole year, you have the same risk of being killed in the line of duty as a police officer working for 2.5 days.

Get those cops off the streets, now (after they are done rounding up the people who walk along the road.)

The National Academy of Sciences will render its report sometime next year. It will remain interesting. Maybe.

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13 Comments on “Toyota’s Sudden Acceleration: Stop Walking Along The Road Immediately!...”

  • avatar

    These statistics are well known.

    Curious that Toyota did not leverage these to seek exhonoration in its testimony before Congress.

    To be fair (and I did not check, but IIRC) LaHood’s comments were related to the stick-slip in the ePedal issue.

    • 0 avatar

      Curious that Toyota did not leverage these to seek exhonoration in its testimony before Congress.

      That would have been corporate suicide.  Emotional people hate being confronted with facts.

    • 0 avatar


      You are right, and that’s exactly why the ‘shim’ was created.  To ease emotional people’s fears for a problem that may not even exist.

    • 0 avatar

      Curious that Toyota did not leverage these to seek exhonoration in its testimony before Congress

      I don’t think they would have been listened to.  People, the media, and politicians don’t like being told that they’re being chicken-littles and will react very badly when presented with facts.

      In the case of the media this is particularly problematic because they control the message, and because they have a real problem with false objectivity and slanted skepticism.  Do you think they’ll spoil a good story?  Do you think they’ll say “Well, yes, there’s two sides to this story and one side is intellectually bankrupt so we won’t even mention it?”

      We live in a media culture that deals in innuendo, rather like a courtroom drama, where psychological “hits” are more valid than actual fact.  It’s far more effective to just say there’s a controversy, beg the question and present false choices, and then self-reference past statements to create a meme of “truthiness”.  It’s the same reason that Creationism still has traction, that people think vaccines cause autisim (it doesn’t) and that Climategate was some kind of “smoking gun” (it wasn’t).

      Toyota knows this.  They know that if they try to play facts, they’ll just get ignored, or worse, labelled as “elitist”, “callous” or “out of touch”.

  • avatar

    Just another attempt by GM [Government Motors] and their shills to berate a fine company. After seeing the way they have handled the Volt fiasco, I do not think GM has changed one iota. They are still the liars and con men that they were before the Bailout.

  • avatar

    Anyone with an OUNCE of common sense knew at the time that Toyota was the subject of a witch hunt.
    The claims of SUA were severely blown out of proportion by the media (not GM…that one was hysterical).
    Toyota was put under the microscope…but Ford…who had the VAST majory of SUA complaints (number one from around 1990 until 2002…and then mostly second in the number of complaints from 2002 until 2009 when they dropped to third…and last I checked…they were back up to #2 for 2010).  But where was the media there?  Ford got a free pass…and Toyota got thrown under the bus.

  • avatar

    So, if I drive 100 million miles in a pre-recall Camry – there is a good probability that I’ll be dead.

  • avatar

    It would take you 114 years driving at 100 mph to drive 100M miles, so there is no doubt you’d be dead.

  • avatar

    Carrots should also be banned…..100% of people who have eaten carrots are dead or will die…..millions of rabbits die each year…..carrots are a deadly food…..I hate carrots!

  • avatar

    Considering that Obama’s NHTSA did everything they could to feed the panic, and that GM was ready with ads leveraging their partners in the Obama administration’s attacks, I don’t think there is any fiction to saying that this was done for GM’s benefit with GM management’s consent.

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