Second-gen Toyota Prius – Click above for high-res image gallery
Following weeks of bad news for Toyota involving brake and acceleration problems and millions of recalled vehicles, something kind of strange happened: a second-gen Prius, which had been recalled because there was a potential that the floor mat could cause unintended acceleration, reached 94 miles per hour on a California highway apparently against the driver's wishes, in a case where the floor mat was not to blame. Two days later, a similar thing happened in New York. We aren't saying that these incidents aren't exactly what the drivers involved claim, but the AP is reminding us that there could be something else at work here.
The relentless media coverage of Toyota's problems could be getting into drivers' minds and making "it much more likely that drivers will mistake anything unexpected - or even a misplaced foot - for actual danger." A look at the number of complaints filed this year with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over "speed control problems" – 272 in ten weeks – compared to 74 in all of 2009 helps make the case. When it comes to problems with brakes, people are even more freaked out: 1,816 have been filed in 2010 compared to 90 in 2009 and about 20 in each of the eight years before that.
We'll let the authorities investigate these latest cases and determine as best they can what happened there, but we also want the madness to calm down. Problems should be fixed, sure, but just because some people have problems doesn't mean everyone does.