No, NHTSA didn’t blame all Toyota’s troubles on driver error

I can’t count how many people sent me items about how NHTSA says the whole Toyota Tempest has now been determined by the government to have been driver error. Hallelujah! Case closed!


The ruckus began with a Wall Street Journal piece with the unfortunately ambiguous titles: “Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents” and “Early Tests Pin Toyota Accidents on Drivers.”

It stated:

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash, people familiar with the findings said. The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

Of course they found that. I wrote about the mistaken pedal issue months ago. It’s been know about since the 1980s and especially plagues the elderly.

More important was the Journal’s quote from scientist with the National Academy of Sciences, which has been studying the problem. “‘In spite of our investigations, we have not actually been able yet to find a defect’ in electronic throttle-control systems.”

And they never will. Even though that’s the pet theory of the media and trial lawyers, there’s nothing wrong with Toyota’s electronic throttles.

But consider this statistic:

In the first half of last year, about 100 people reported sudden unintended acceleration in Toyotas. In the first half of this year, it was about 5,000. Do you think that’s all “driver error,” much less all those people stomping the wrong pedal all of the sudden?

Stay tuned!