Toyota “sudden acceleration deaths” suddenly accelerate

Predictably, in the wake of the media blitz about the alleged dangers of Toyotas suddenly accelerating, reports of fatalities linked (note: not “caused by”) such incidents has shot up.

In December the figure stood at 19, and then in January bumped up to 21. Since January 27th, when Toyota ordered a widespread recall, 13 more fatalities have been reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Somehow people’s memories have suddenly become a lot sharper, haven’t they?

Fortunately, the media seem wise to this. For example, today’s LA Times reports its own analysis “shows that all but one of the deaths reported to NHTSA by motorists in 2010 actually occurred in prior years – as far back as 1992 – suggesting that recent public attention to the issue spurred people to file complaints regarding past incidents. Most of the incidents occurred between 2003 and 2009.”

This is typical behavior in the light of something suddenly being seen as dangerous. If the media declare a drug is being investigated, suddenly people come out of the woodwork to make claims against the drug. I described that in an article about the alleged link between the acne medicine Accutane and suicide, in quoting an FDA spokeswoman saying, “When there’s public awareness or publicity about a drug for any reason, there may be an increase in reports because people may not have otherwise thought about associations.”

And it’s understandable human behavior that I think is usually innocent.


But one can’t help but notice that when you google “Toyota deaths” the top link goes to one law firm soliciting Toyota accident clients while the sponsored link on the right takes you to another law firm. (The inset shows part of an advertisement from one of those firms.)

Come to think of it, people trying to get easy money is also understandable human behavior.