Shame On You, Rhonda Smith

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

One of the most important lessons to come out of the last two days of congressional hearings on the Toyota recalls is that blaming individuals for unintended acceleration is too tough a task for our elected representatives. And yet the more we learn, the more necessary it seems to take human error into account when dealing with unintended acceleration. Nothing illustrates this quite like the case of the very first witness to give testimony before congress. Rhonda Smith of Sevierville, Tn told the House Energy Committee, under oath, that her Lexus ES350 became “possessed” and that its brakes and transmission failed to respond at precisely the moment that the car accelerated out of control. “Shame on you, Toyota, for being so greedy,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. But it turns out that the shame belongs almost entirely with Ms Smith.

The Wall Street Journal [sub] [via Jalopnik] reports that, despite her traumatic and inexplicable experience, Ms Smith sold her dangerous, out-of-control ES350 to another family, which has since put 27,000 trouble-free miles on the vehicle (according to just-auto [sub], Toyota has since taken possession of the vehicle). Which means she either lied under oath, or displayed a disregard for the safety of others that puts Toyota’s missteps into stunning context. Or both. In any case, her behavior adds to our growing suspicion that the vacuous, disingenuous, and self-serving congressional hearings have been the best thing to happen to Toyota PR since the recalls began. Shame on you, Rhonda Smith, shame on you.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • INeon INeon on Feb 26, 2010

    This isn't the first time I've been called crazy on a website-- and it won't be the last. I was simply using strong language to get the point of the double-standard being practiced across. It isn't my fault you cannot understand abstract language. Maybe needing things spelled-out for you is a sign of an even weaker mind. There are numerous posts in this thread that step over boundaries and do nothing but disrespect Mrs. Smith for her status as a Christian woman. We are not allowed to do this with Mr. Toyoda in those threads, and I am simply calling for equality. I hope this is more clear.

    • Runfromcheney Runfromcheney on Feb 26, 2010

      That is just the thing. None of us (at least not me) are jumping on Mrs. Smith because she is a Christian. We are jumping on her because she seems to be an ignorant moron who is riding an exaggerated sob story to her own fifteen minutes of fame. No disrespect, but "god intervened" is not a good way to explain how you managed to stop your out of control car when you are testifying in front of a major world government.

  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Feb 26, 2010

    I think maybe it's entirely possible that this lady's car got away from her, and of course she panicked. In an instance such as this many things can happen, and while maybe they did not happen in exactly the way she describes i'm sure that she see's things in the way that she is describing. I'm sure that if the vehicle did speed out of control it did not take long for it to reach a high rate of speed. Like a lot of people maybe she did not react fast enough by shifting into neutral before the speed got excessive. Maybe she tried braking before trying to hit neutral, which would heat the brakes up excessively, making them less effective. It's possible that by the time she hit neutral that the brakes were so hot that they would no longer work. She may have been so panic stricken that she might not even hit neutral, but thought she did, who knows? It looks like she obviously had the car in neutral,but who knows after how long, because the car finally came to a stop. I think that maybe out of panic she overheated the brakes before finally taking the car out of gear, that would expalin the car not wanting to stop with the brakes. Many things could have happened, and it's unfair to pick on this person without being there to witness what actually did happen.

  • Bsgcic Bsgcic on Feb 27, 2010

    I think it is premature to point blame at Ms. Smith and certainly to discredit her claim against Toyota. I suggest the following: 1. The fact that another family bought the vehicle indicates that either: a) She did not disclose the incidence of the unintended acceleration b) that she had the vehicle repaired prior to selling it and disclosed that fact or c) that she disclosed it and the new family bought it anyway perhaps at a heavily discounted price. My guess is that (a) is most likely because if she had it repaired, that would have served as evidence for congress. I would guess that (c) would be unlikely as I would hypothesize that the type of customer buying a Lexus for personal use would pay a premium for safety. 2. Just because the new family has not experienced a recurrence of the unintended acceleration does not mean that it did not happen for Ms. Smith. Many Lexus vehicles have been sold and the occurrence of the unintended acceleration appears to be a small fraction of those cases. It is likely that for the unintended acceleration to occur, a unique mix of independent circumstances must all happen which most likely contributes to the difficulty in identifying, verifying, and diagnosing the cause. This type of problem-solving challenge is not so uncommon when developing technology (including software development which I do myself). My guess as to this is that: The incident did occur with Ms. Smith. However, Ms. Smith may have not disclosed that information to the new buyer which if true would be, among other things, reckless and unethical of Ms. Smith (if true!).

  • YZS YZS on Mar 02, 2010

    Why would you need to go to skip barber race driving school to learn what shifting into neutral does? Seriously, this is what's wrong with America today. It's basic knowledge that any driver should know, right up there with which pedal does what.