Pajamas Media: Sudden Acceleration or Creeping Fear?

Today’s post is at Pajamas Media: Sudden Acceleration or Creeping Fear?

Pajamas Media

Charlie Martin, now science and tech editor at Pajamas, asked me to look into the fatal accidents occurring in Toyotas said to be caused by sudden acceleration.

Tagline: Do Toyota automobiles really have a “sudden acceleration” problem? Maybe not.

Note carefully: this is a qualitative analysis of the fatal accidents only.


  1. Briggs



  2. Bernie

    I would bet that there is some type of momentary disorientation that can occur with drivers that leads to a confusion as to which pedal to push. I suspect that driving instructors could relate thousands of stories where they had over-ride the mistake of the learner.

  3. Briggs


    Right. And some Toyota’s have “black boxes” where they can check, as they just did for that woman in Long Island, to see if they brake or gas pedal was pushed.

  4. Bernie

    Good point. I should invest in companies that make these recorders – all new cars will have them as a basis of defense against lawsuits! I may already be too late. I can see the smart traders jumping on this one immediately.

  5. Kevin

    To have tens of thousands of reports of “sudden acceleration” quite generally explained by driver error puts this phenomena in a class similar to seeing UFO’s doesn’t it? No person should even have to have explained to them that many drivers, perhaps all at times, have acute situational disconnect. It has been responsible for the most horrific of airliner accidents, after all.

    Having said that, I owned several Isuzu Troopers, one of which did have an intermittently mindful accelerator pedal that I could not disable in any way except by switching the engine off. It only occurred on the highway, never in city driving. Luckily the Trooper was so modestly powered that a fully runaway vehicle in this state could just manage the maximum speed limit–i.e. zero acceleration, and I would just continue on to my destination. We never found the problem, which eventually went away on its own.

  6. Doug M

    Have you noticed that there are no cases of sudden acceleration in cars with a stick shift?

    There was an interesting series of cases of sudden accelleration in police cars.

    The drivers were all competent drivers. They had all been trained. And, the cars were wired such that the cars could not be put into gear unless the break peadal was depressed.

    The conclusion? … they were hitting the gas when they thought they were hitting the brake. The lights and sirens had been connected to the breaking system so that the tail lights would flash. If the siren was on, the car’s electonics registered that the brakes were on.

  7. j ferguson

    Wasn’t this an issue with Audis some years ago? Doubtless they left an Audi Trail.


  8. Bernie

    “acute situational disconnect” – now that it is a keeper. In fact I just googled it and found nothing. If I were you I would slap a mark on it and find some herbal remedy for it. Come to think about it, it sounds like something those little blue pills might address.

  9. Bernie. Good catch on that link. I’d recently seen a different version of the same story discussed by lawyers [spit, spit]. Looks like several dozen civil cases are being reopened around the country wherein Toyota is alleged to have failed to respond in a timely manner to requests for readouts or when and if they did answer they said “nothing significant” was shown or available. Those cases have already been adjudicated and damages paid out based what is now said to have been incomplete or false information due to T’s failure to be forthcoming. Juries don’t like bullies. If only 10% of those cases go back to trial and result in verdict changes the multiplied penalty fees alone could pay for another dozen years of nationwide lawyer education. Just what we need.

  10. j ferguson

    It makes one wonder whether the names of all the afflictions in the world, or at least those for which there are meds advertised on the nightly news can be reduced to 3 letters. Are there enough letters?

    I do suspect that ASD may be causally connected with DOA.

  11. The conspiracy in this case (for all you conspiracy theorists) is the sudden rush by the Left Wing Media to undermine a company that is in competition with Government Motors, the new socialist experiment in American industry. One of them. Health care is next.

    The Pipple elected a Marxist. He is doing what Marxists do, which is instituting government ownership and control of the economy. That is what the Pipple want. They want to live in a Marxist paradise. That the Pipple are insane and/or stupid is not MY fault, anymore than Toyota is as fault for making cars with allegedly sticky accelerators.

  12. Bernie

    J ferguson:
    I feel a Bayesian moment coming on!

  13. bob

    Having worked at a Lincoln/Mercury dealer for about 6 months 3 years ago, I can tell you that claims of “stuck” accelerators are not unusual. I talked to two customers during that time who brought their cars in for that reason. Nothing wrong was found, and I even drove one vehicle for two days trying to duplicate the problem.

    Even though no problem was found, these particular customers were believable to me if not the dealer management (who were a bunch of bandits masquerading as business people). With several thousand of these kinds of complaints being reported in the US over a couple of decades, it is not outside of reason for some of the “stuck” accelerators to have true stories.

    As far as Toyota goes, I don’t believe they have been malicious nor neglectful of the safety of their customers. If I were the engineer in charge of investigating the complaints I am not sure if I could have come to the conclusion that there was, indeed, a safety problem.

    Thanks for the great article on Pajamas Media.

  14. TimH

    NYT had a story where they compared NHTSA “speed control” complaints per vehicle sold… think it was since 2002. Toyota was something like 1 complaint per 20,000 cars vehicles, sold, which was 3 to 4 times the next closest (Ford), and lowest was GM with 1 in 180,000. If this is chalked up to user error, are Toyota drivers that much less competent?

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