Phony “Toyota deaths database.” My article in Forbes magazine

In the Toyota witch hunt, nothing has been more damning than those deaths we’re told Toyota sudden acceleration “allegedly caused” or, depending on whom you read, did cause.

As I note in my just-published Forbes magazine article, “93 and Counting,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration insists on the term “allegedly.” But U.S. News & World Report blog-post headline proclaimed: “NHTSA: 89 Deaths Caused by Unintended Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles.” The Los Angeles Times stated in a headline that sudden acceleration “led to” the deaths. A New York Post headline earlier declared that faulty Toyotas “have killed” 52 people. A CBS News Web headline (over an Associated Press story) similarly said the acceleration car fault “has killed” 89.

Toyota doesn’t look so bad after all!

In any case, the NHTSA “complaint database,” available on its website to anyone (yes, including the mainstream media), is hooey. So I found when I actually looked at the complaints. (Now there’s a novel idea!) Anybody can enter anything. An entry filed by someone named “Damnable Liar” from Holy Toledo! Ohio claimed his car accelerated to the moon because of a child seat problem. That was mine. But the ones citing 99 deaths in one vehicle? Not mine.

Three of the alleged fatal accidents never took place, which DID take sleuthing on my part. So did finding that, after the frenzy began, seven entries comprising ten deaths originally blamed on other aspects of the cars were refiled as unintended acceleration.

But at a glance you can see many simply deduce that since investigators found no cause other than driver error, then the accelerator must be responsible. Or they make the illogical deduction that since the brakes weren’t applied, it was sudden acceleration. And so on.

And then there was the lady whose son, while sloshed and after smoking dope, killed his best friend in a Toyota Scion. After entering a NHTSA complaint blaming her boy’s accident on sudden acceleration she entered seven more Scion complaints comprising 12 deaths that she’d merely pulled out of news reports and labeled as sudden acceleration. She’s covering for her son.

Yes, these are the “alleged” or “Toyota-caused” deaths we keep hearing about!