Appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation this morning, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that Toyota owners should "stop driving" their recalled vehicles until they're fixed.
"We need to fix the problem so people don't have to worry about disengaging the engine or slamming the brakes on or put it in neutral...If anybody owns [one] of these vehicles, stop driving it and take it to a Toyota dealer."
Sage advice or a precursor to panic? It's hard to say, though we've received emails from a number of Toyota customers who own recalled vehicles asking what they should do. LaHood has given an answer, and while it may seem overkill to some, the old adage "better safe than sorry" springs to mind. That said, letting your recalled Toyota sit unused may not be an option for some people who only own one vehicle, and LaHood's comment may create unnecessary fear for those owners.

We've been told that parts to fix the recalled vehicles are already being shipped to Toyota dealers around the country, and after a couple days of training they'll be ready to start fixing vehicles by this weekend at the latest. So, if owners of an affected vehicle heed LaHood's advice, they should only be without wheels for a few days or so, assuming their local Toyota dealer can handle the influx of recalled vehicles awaiting the fix.

UPDATE: According to a report by the AP, LaHood has retracted his statement calling for drivers of affected Toyotas to stop driving their cars, saying "What I said in there was obviously a misstatement." Mr. LaHood, a suggestion: Choose future declarations very carefully.

UPDATE: Toyota has released a statement about LaHood's remark and retraction, which you can read after the jump.



[Source: Bloomberg via GM Inside News | Image: Jonathan Ernst/Getty]
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Toyota Statement on Comments by Transportation Secretary LaHood on Feb. 3, 2010
We appreciate Secretary LaHood's clarification of his remarks today about Toyota's recall for sticking accelerator pedals. We want to make sure our customers understand that this situation is rare and generally does not occur suddenly. In the rare instances where it does it occur, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes.
Our message to Toyota owners is this – if you experience any issues with your accelerator pedal, please contact your dealer without delay. If you are not experiencing any issues with your pedal, we are confident that your vehicle is safe to drive.
Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive. Our entire organization of 172,000 North American employees and dealership personnel is working around the clock to fix the accelerator pedals for our customers.

Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc.