Thursday, February 11, 2010
Secretary LaHood Issues Recall of the American Motorist
"DoT Secretary Ray La Hood has recalled the entire surface transportation fleet to replace an endemic factory defect: dangerous loose nuts have been installed behind the steering wheels of more than half of our cars..."
Too far out to be true? Much has been said lately about the recall of all those Toyotas due to defects in brake algorithms and sticky accelerators. But from what I have read in multiple sources (here is one), there have been about 19 deaths over a decade cause by Toyota's faulty throttles. Not sure how many have been killed by the brakes, but I suspect similar low numbers.
Meanwhile, what about the real "factory defects" in our vehicle fleet? We have killed roughly 400,000 people in traffic crashes over the last decade and according to the FHWA: "Depending on the source, driver error is cited as the cause of 45 to 75 percent of roadway crashes and as a contributing factor in the majority of crashes (Hankey, et al, 1999)."
Out of all those deaths, the defective gas pedal can explain perhaps %0.005. Driver error? 45-75%. Who are we kidding?
While roads and cars have acquired numerous safety features over the last quarter century, we see two big problems. One, that motorists increasingly take safety for granted and often engage in high-risk behavior such as driver distraction. Secondly, many of these improvements, designed to protect motorists, have done little to protect non-motorists such as bicyclists and pedestrians who are at ever increasing risk of being hit by distracted or safety tone-deaf motorists.
DoT Secretary Ray LaHood has been quoted as calling Toyota "a little safety deaf" over the accelerator issue. But looking at the FHWA report, don't you think its about time that the Secretary of Transportation took stronger action to prevent the lion's share of traffic crashes and immediately demand a recall of that most imperfect of designs, the "safety deaf" American motorist, to repair his or her hearing?