The wrong fears (aka stuck accelerator issues)

The Toyota/Lexus stuck accelerator issue has generated at least three threads on this site alone, not to mention innumerable media stories. While I feel sorry for the family that was killed, to some extent I think the extensive coverage on this is totally irrational. Since this unfortunate accident how many people have

1) Been nailed by drunk drivers or by someone who got distracted and ran a stop sign or

2) Got distracted and ran their own vehicles off the road and into telephone poles and the like?

We focus our fears on the irrational (such as being the victim of a mass shooting such as Columbine, of terrorist attack like 9/11, or of being the victim of a stuck accelerator. We don’t focus on the more prosaic risks, such as simply getting distracted/falling asleep and running off the road or flipping the car.

Recalls are screw-ups by manufacturers. DWI and distracted driving are screw-ups by drivers. They are two different problems that have to be addressed.

Well Scrabbler continue on and explain why you think certain Nationalities are like this. Not all citizens of every nation have these type of fears,some have the more mundane type like,do we eat today? or perhaps does the Stasi visit today?

People simply like to be in charge of their own fates. You might be able to avoid something like a drunk driver or someone running a stop sign, but if your car starts accelerating on it’s own, well, it seems like there’s nothing you can do about it-- it’s utterly random and terrifying. (Well, except for the fact that it’s easy enough to pop the car into neutral and coast to the shoulder, but pretend you don’t know that)

Lack of control + seeming randomness = terror!

My brother has a 2004 Camry LE with over 100k miles on the clock and drove this vehicle from south carolina to buffalo ny with no issues. I currently have a 2009 Camry SE with about 8k miles and have not had a problem. I had a customer come in today and said it’s not the stock floor mats that are doing it, it’s the upgraded ones that are rubber, longer, and get this: they have no mounting holes. So for me it’s mostly human error but than again who’s going to be thinking of putting a car in neutral when you’re going that fast? Again most Toyotas are between 160 HP(4 cyl) to 265 HP(6 cyl) and are not v8’s where they would accelerate ubruptly. Again my condolences go out to all the families who lost a loved one but you have to be in control of you vehicle at all times.

Not really addressing why this seems to be an U.S. issue.

Well if your old enough, then you’ve heard the story of Chicken Little and you’re not perplexed. By the way, if you have put those thick rubber mud mats in ANY vehicle, better check things out. I put them in my 2000 Subaru Legacy and guess what?

There have been 2100 incidents involving instant acceleration, not one. And they have not all be with cars or trucks that even have floor mats in them. This problem has been elevated for 5 years yet Toyota has barely started doing anything but denying it exists. At least FOUR MILLION Toyota vehicles are involved, and it’s not clear that the floor mats are the only problem. Here’s an article that discusses it at length:,0,5254584.story?page=1

Docter Pinto: I agree screw ups by mfrs and screw ups by drivers are two different problems that both need to be addressed–but I add that screw ups by drivers cause MANY more deaths than any kind of mechanical failure. If that accident had been the result of falling asleep or distracted driving, it would have been a local story at best.

Cigroller: I got to get hold of and read that book–it sounds interesting.

Oldschool: I have no idea why we in the U.S. obsess over such things and haven’t traveled enough to figure out how prevalent this sort of thinking is, at least among cultures that generally don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from (although many in the U.S. now face that latter problem, sadly).

GreasyJack: I think you hit the nail on the head: People like to be in control, and a car running out of the control hits that very fear. One reason why so many people prefer to drive than be a passenger.

jtsanders: What you say may very well be true, but, even assuming the problem is a bad as the article you posted implies, it’s still not as bad as the problem of, say, distracted drivers, and people who simply run themselves off the road. Half of all fatal accidents are single-vehicle accidents that don’t involve mechanical failure. Yet when one happens it merits barely a paragraph in a local newspaper–maybe a bit more if multiple people are killed. Yet it’s stuck throttles that get the national headlines. And no, I’m not being Pollyannish about Toyota or the NHTSA–both those entities absolutely need to get to the bottom of this, and it doesn’t sound like either is doing a good job of it so far. But at the same time, the irrationality of these fears causes us to allocate our resources inefficiently.


The crux of the issue is that no one yet knows exactly what the issue is. It did not occur on the mechanical linkage throttles. It started after the electronic throttles came into use. And people with no mats have reported the problem. People using cruise control have reported cruising along at a steady speed and the car taking off. The issue is far from clear, and until it is, any Toyota product with an electronic throttle could have the problem. This could be any manufacturer, and they might all behave the same way. But it’s only Toyota, and they have been slow to address the issue. It seems to me that it is important to bring it to the attention of all Toyota owners so that they can think about unintended acceleration and how they could react to it so that they won’t be counted among the dead and injured. I don’t own a Toyota product and won’t lose a moment of sleep over it. But others need to be aware of it an it should not be minimized.

Nowhere in his post did scrambler mention Nationalities.You are trying to impose your agenda on his viewpoint.

That’s exactly what it addresses.

I suppose there could be a systemic issue with Toyotas and stuck accelerators, just as there might have been one with Audis a few years ago, and I seem to recall a complaint about Buicks, too. It could happen, certainly. But these sorts of stories are like viruses. They spread like crazy because they are flashy and dramatic and look good to the producers of the Evening News and TV magazine shows. And they put the blame for tragedies on someone else, not on the people injured, which is very popular.

The point Scrabbler made is very important. Instead of using this mess as a teaching moment, the popular media reported it as the inevitable result of corporate failure. So, did anyone really learn that putting the car into neutral will solve this emergency? Maybe, but far more learned that Toyota products run away uncontrollably and kill everyone. Which is nonsense.

For years I’ve been trying to figure out why drivers never receive any training in what to do in emergencies. Blow outs, engine failures, hitting animals, falling asleep and driving onto the shoulder, being sideswiped in traffic, sneezing fits, these things happen all the time, but most drivers seem to react to all of them the same way - slam on the brakes. Which is pretty much always the wrong thing to do.

Scrabbler is right. We can debate the Toyota mechanical issue all you want, but the injuries can be decreased dramatically if people are taught how to cope, not how to blame.

This is a very interesting link. I have worried about this as we have two cars now with electronic throttle control. With the old mechanical system I felt confident that I could reach down and pull back the gas pedal if needed or brake and grab the carpet out of the way. Now, you must brake and if that does not work, then switch off the ignition.

Meanwhile, I hope that electronic braking is just some bean counter’s silly cost reduction dream and stays that way for the cars that I will buy unless 100% predictably is guaranteed or some kind of backup system.

The fear is real and not irrational. IF my truck is going to do me in, I want it to be my fault or another drivers, not the denial of a company which used to make great vehicles. I do hope that the rumors aren’t true that only US made Toyotas are the problem. That raises a lot more questions. Toyota asked the company supplying the parts to evaluate them. Sounds dumb to me as why should they admit to anything wrong in their design or manufacturing process. I should not have to be concerned with being able to shift into neutral for a problem I didn’t create.

“I do hope that the rumors aren’t true that only US made Toyotas are the problem.”

The models involved are listed below. Many of them are built in Japan.

* 2007 to 2010 Toyota Camry
* 2005 to 2010 Toyota Avalon
* 2004 to 2009 Toyota Prius
* 2005 to 2010 Toyota Tacoma pickup
* 2007 to 2010 Toyota Tundra pickup
* 2007 to 2010 Lexus ES350
* 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS250
* 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS350

Although it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference, I disagree. Whatever the cause of the accident, I’m still in the hospital or dead, and my vehicle is still totaled. The only practical differences I see are 1) Another driver might not have as much money as Toyota from which to recover for my injuries and 2) Toyota is likely to have more money to pay attorneys to put up a stiffer defense in the event of a lawsuit.

There have been quite a number of times when I’ve had to take action on the road for a problem I didn’t create. I don’t see switching to neutral as any different from the other actions any driver of any experience has had to take on occasion.

And if the definition of an irrational fear is one that distracts us from addressing risks that have a greater chance of producing an adverse outcome, I’d say this qualifies.


  1. Got distracted and ran their own vehicles off the road and into telephone poles and the like?

Too easy! Way, waaaay too easy!

“And if the definition of an irrational fear is one that distracts us from addressing risks that have a greater chance of producing an adverse outcome, I’d say this qualifies.”

If someone treats this issue like a boogieman behind the door, then I agree with you. But it’s all in how someone responds to the alert. To a large degree, that’s a matter of personality. Should we stop talking about it becasue there are hysterical reactions to it? I think it is important to keep unintended acceration front and center until Toyota figures out what is wrong. They appear to be perfectly willing to ignore the problem and hope it goes away, much as Ford did with the Pinto gas tanks many years ago.