Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Putting the Brakes on Unintended Acceleration

Is it just me, or is the brouhaha over Toyota’s gas pedals becoming just a little overheated?

Is Toyota's behavior really that unusual? And do sticky accelerators really spell the end of civilization as we know it?

Looking back to a time when Ford Pintos were turning American streets into spontaneous Fourth of July celebrations, did Ford erect ‘Don’t Buy This Car!' billboards?

And when their Explorers were shredding Firestone tires like CIA documents, did Ford put up a web site to broadcast the fact?


Granted, crashing into a store front is traumatic. Especially when a Grande Mocha Latté is involved.

Yet when I think of all the things that could conceivably go wrong while driving (loss of steering, fire, brake failure, the wheels falling off), unintended acceleration is pretty far down the list of automotive fears.

Fact is, I’m more afraid of the puffed-up tough guy in the black Dodge Ram riding my bumper because I’m only going five miles over the speed limit, or of the dolly texting her BFF from behind the wheel of her Jeep Grand Cherokee than I am of unintended acceleration.

That’s because a sticky accelerator is so easily remedied.

Even as a spastic seventeen-year-old learning how to drive, I knew that putting a car in neutral while the engine revved way too fast for the icy street it was on would disengage the transmission and keep it under control.

Not to sound cold, but didn’t this occur to a single soul driving an impacted Toyota? How about standing on that big ol’ pedal to the left of the one that sticks? Or turning the key to ‘off’?

Based on extensive personal experience, I’ll speculate that if a sizeable percentage hadn’t had their hands (not to mention their attention spans) all over a cell phone, mascara brush, burrito, lap top, Blackberry, cup of coffee, cigarette lighter, etc. and were actually focused on driving, a solution might have come to them before a crash did.

I'm not looking to absolve Toyota of blame. I suspect they got a little too caught-up in surpassing GM as the world’s largest car-maker, and skipped some steps while abandoning their traditional quality-first business model.

But maybe—just maybe—we should consider driving when we’re, um, driving.

I’m well-aware this notion flies in the face of our national obsession with multi-tasking, and that it won’t prevent an accelerator from sticking. But it might just keep us engaged, and as a consequence, closer to corrective action than abject panic.

No comments:

Post a Comment