More on the Toyota sudden acceleration story

It’s looking more and more like the whole assault on Toyota by government and state-run media forces is a hack job. Certain members of the blogosphere have done their own investigating (something the state-run media have refused to do) and they have come up with some interesting anomalies. Megan McArdle over at the Atlantic posts this piece.

She points out that the most damaging judgment against Toyota was they ignored these complaints for so long without doing something. After looking at some of the demographics involved, especially the age factor, it becomes believable that Toyota likely considered most of these incidents as driver error.

In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89–and I’m leaving out the son whose age wasn’t identified, but whose 94-year-old father died as a passenger.

In the original Sudden Acceleration Incident craze that afflicted America in the late eighties, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration eventually ruled that the problem was “pedal misapplication”, aka stepping on the gas when you meant to step on the brake.  These incidents were highly correlated with three things:  being elderly, being short, and parking (or leaving a parking space).    The elderly are more prone to the sort of neuronal misfiring described in yesterday’s New York Times.  Shorter people have to hunt more for the pedals.  And starting up from a complete stop is the most likely time to press the wrong pedal.

So is “pedal misapplication” a probable cause in Toyota’s case? It certainly bears more scrutiny and should not be ruled out as the government is wont to do. Other circumstances involved in this situation also tend to bolster Toyota’s case.

In some of the cases, the police or doctors have an alternate theory of what happened:  one of the SAIs was bipolar, which puts you at extraordinarily high risk of suicide, and no one knows what actually happened in the car.  At least two others involve young men who were driving at very high speed, which is something that young men tend to do with or without a sticky accelerator.  Several more of the drivers seem to have had a medical situation, like a stroke, to which doctors and/or police attribute the acceleration.

It seems that there’s certainly a lot more to the story than portrayed by government and state-run media sources, although certain media outlets have started to investigate further.

In a related story (more here from Forbes.com), major media outlets jumped on a recent horrific tale from  a Prius driver who called 911 to report he was speeding out of control with a stuck accelerator on a California highway. The California Highway Patrol got involved and the car was eventually stopped. The media jumped on this to further feed the frenzy against Toyota without doing any investigation – as usual. Now it appears that the incident may have been a hoax but don’t look for the state-run media to follow up.

“On the very day Toyota was making a high-profile defense of its cars, one of them was speeding out of control,” said CBS News–and a vast number of other media outlets worldwide. The driver of a 2008 Toyota Prius, James Sikes, called 911 to say his accelerator was stuck, he was zooming faster than 90 miles per hour and absolutely couldn’t slow down.

It got far more dramatic, though. The California Highway Patrol responded and “To get the runaway car to stop, they actually had to put their patrol car in front of the Prius and step on the brakes.” During over 20 harrowing minutes, according to NBC’s report, Sikes “did everything he could to try to slow down that Prius.” Others said, “Radio traffic indicated the driver was unable to turn off the engine or shift the car into neutral.”

In fact, almost none of this was true. Virtually every aspect of Sikes’s story as told to reporters makes no sense. His claim that he’d tried to yank up the accelerator could be falsified, with his help, in half a minute. And now we even have an explanation for why he’d pull such a stunt, beyond the all-American desire to have 15 minutes of fame (recall the “Balloon Boy Hoax” from October) and the aching need to be perceived as a victim.

This is a very good point by point deconstruction of what has been portrayed as a terrifying incident and another indictment of Toyota. Once again, the state-run media is guilty of “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality without verifying facts. Because it fits the mindset of the left – corporations bad, government good.

With the government and their union supporters holding a majority stake in GM and Chrysler, one has to wonder if there isn’t a (not so well) hidden agenda in this affair.

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