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Toyota Accelerator Data Skewed Toward Elderly 776

An anonymous reader passes along this discussion on the data for the Toyota accelerator problem, from a few weeks back. (Here's a Google spreadsheet of the data.) "Several things are striking. First, the age distribution really is extremely skewed. The overwhelming majority are over 55. Here's what else you notice: a slight majority of the incidents involved someone either parking, pulling out of a parking space, in stop and go traffic, at a light or stop sign... in other words, probably starting up from a complete stop."
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Toyota Accelerator Data Skewed Toward Elderly

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  • And 1/2... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gjyoung ( 320540 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:51PM (#31728626)

    Were little old ladies form Pasadena...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And, strangely, 99.9% of these incidents seem to happen in the US while drivers in other countries brake successfully and notify their car dealerships: http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,682417,00.html [spiegel.de]
  • not enough data (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:52PM (#31728630)

    27 data points is not enough to draw a strong conclusion.

    • Re:not enough data (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mabbo ( 1337229 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:04PM (#31728722)

      27 data points is not enough to draw a strong conclusion.

      So why then should the court of public opinion concluded that it's Toyota's fault?

      • Re:not enough data (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:21PM (#31728844)

        Because GM is owned by the government, and by far the easiest way to gain market share is to take down the leader.

        • Re:not enough data (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fred911 ( 83970 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:09PM (#31729240)

          The easiest way is to make a superior product, which GM fails at. Isn't NUMI enough proof, it's not the workers, it's the managers? Toyota took a failing GM plant, slapped together Corollas, or Prism's... what ever you choose to call them. All in less then 6 months. Toyota is on the top because they build a quality product, stand by it and when it's bad due to design, they just f'n fix it and GM looks at it like an opportunity to rape their clients (yet again).

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by demonlapin ( 527802 )

            it's not the workers, it's the managers

            I listened to that This American Life, too, and there was a pretty significant change in worker behavior at NUMMI (vs when it was GM-Fremont) that could not be replicated at other GM plants because... (drum roll) workers at other plants didn't really think they'd be closed if they didn't reform. Aside from that episode, however, there are plenty of stories out there of sabotage by auto workers. The management was insular and came up with uninspiring designs, but the workers also did a truly awful job of b

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jimicus ( 737525 )


            In any reasonably mature market (which cars definitely are), it's damn difficult to build a superior product. Particularly when there are so many variables which can be tweaked and changing them impacts other aspects.

            Make the car look better? How will that impact aerodynamics? Which will impact fuel economy...

            Better build quality so bits don't fall off? OK, but that'll cost more money which will have to be either recouped in the sale price or swallowed by the manufacturer, resulting in lower per-

      • Re:not enough data (Score:5, Informative)

        by The Clockwork Troll ( 655321 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:30PM (#31728916) Journal

        Because regardless of whether this turns out to be more problems with cars or problems with drivers, Toyota's actions in the matter have been surreptitious at best [motortrend.com].

        Toyota insisted the problem was with floormats until incidents with mat-less cars forced them to dig deeper.

        They are on the record [salon.com] as patting themselves on the back for saving money by not issuing a recall sooner.

        The way they have handled this is far more concerning than where the fault ultimately lay.

        • Re:not enough data (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:03AM (#31730010) Journal
          There is nothing about mat-less crashes in the first article, if anything that article backs up Toyota's claims, it claims Toyota took one month to decide on a recall that will cost them over $50M a DAY. The second article also says nothing about mat-less crashes, it is just hearsay about an alleged memo, they don't even show you the memo let alone authenticate it.

          What I find far more concerning than people who can't tell their floor mat is pressing on their gas pedal are the vast numbers of people like you who think unsubstaniated assertions are a valid form of evidence against someone/something they don't like.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Respectfully, from page 5 of the Motor Trend timeline [motortrend.com] that I linked:

            December 26, 2009: A Toyota Avalon crashes into a lake in Texas after accelerating out of control. All four occupants die. Floor mats are ruled out as a cause because they are found in the trunk of the car.

            That is when the Toyota recalls appear to kick into overdrive, and within a month sales are halted. I think I was reasonable in saying that mat-less incident is what finally provoked a deeper action on Toyota's part: they could no longer

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) *
              "Respectfully, from page 5 of the Motor Trend timeline [motortrend.com] that I linked"

              Fair point, I didn't see there was more than one page. However the incident initiated a seperate recall, it did not kick the first recall into overdrive. The decision to make the second recall was also made in less than a month after the first confirmed mat-less crash, "though the cause is still under investigation"(pg 6.)

              "I think I was reasonable in saying that mat-less incident is what finally provoked a deeper act
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This data is not very useful without knowing the age distribution of the drivers of Priuses. If 80% of the drivers are between the ages of 50 and 90, this data would mean that the frequency per age group is actually skewed low.

    • Re:not enough data (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msauve ( 701917 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:48PM (#31729082)
      ...and the age distribution tab of the spreadsheet doesn't support the claim:

      the age distribution really is extremely skewed. The overwhelming majority are over 55.

      The spreadsheet shows 20 age 50+ and 15 age 0-50. That doesn't sound statistically significant, let alone "overwhelming."

      And if a driver is 50, are they put into the 40-50 category, or the 50-60 category? Where's the data on Toyota model/year ownership by age, needed to even begin to make a valid comparison? Is 55 the median age for the owner's of the models/years involved in these accidents?

      Seems like a poorly thought out attempt to make a case to me.

    • by Main Gauche ( 881147 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:22PM (#31729762)

      The odds of this kind of skew are ridiculously low.

      We have ages of 27 people. 13 of them are over 65. If you look here [allcountries.org], you can compute that of all Americans over 15 years old, 16.5% are over 65. (14.4/(14.4+72.9)=16.5)

      I'll be generous and assume that 20% of Toyota owners are over 65.

      So in a sample of size 27, what are the odds of getting 13 or more people over 65, when the population you are looking at has only 20% of its people over 65?

      The odds of getting that skewed of a sample are only about 1 in a thousand. (1-binomdist(12,27,.2,1)) So despite claims to the contrary, that is indeed statistically significant.

      (Disclaimer: I know nothing about where this sample even came from, and am not claiming anything about its validity. I am merely disputing the posts dismissing this sample out of hand without doing some simple math.)

  • So . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:52PM (#31728636) Journal

    parking, pulling out of a parking space, in stop and go traffic, at a light or stop sign... in other words, probably starting up from a complete stop

    Or in other words, they take their foot off the pedal and put it on the wrong one.

  • by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:53PM (#31728642) Homepage Journal

    Old people can't use computers. Even if it involves lightly pressing on the accelerator.

  • I trust Woz (Score:2, Insightful)

    Woz has already described the repro case.

    Now, the iPad may not be the be all and end all of consumer devices, but I trust Woz when he talks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      He described a case where unintended acceleration occurs.

      He did not describe a case where uncontrollable acceleration occurs (in his case, the acceleration is halted by simply tapping the brakes).

    • Re:I trust Woz (Score:4, Informative)

      by Game_Ender ( 815505 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @08:59PM (#31728686)
      Yes but the Woz case is possible bug in the cruise control software, not the accelerator.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lenroc ( 632180 )

        Yes but the Woz case is possible bug in the cruise control software, not the accelerator.

        Right, because Cruise Control Software is in no way related to acceleration, right?

        • Re:I trust Woz (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Troed ( 102527 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @05:26AM (#31731462) Homepage Journal

          A few years ago I bought the "safest car in the world" (that's the brand promise) second hand from a dealer. It had one previous owner, and was two years old.

          Three weeks after purchase, it suddenly accelerated uncontrollable on the freeway. Pressing the brakes slowed it down, but when I lifted off the brakes again it kept accelerating. Quite unnerving.

          I managed to find the cause (not that many things in a car should cause it to accelerate) quite quickly, the 3+/3- km/h cruise control adjustment micro switch had broken (physically) and now sat and "vibrated" towards the 3+ setting several times a second. Turning the cruise control completely off (separate switch) worked fine.

          I had the broken part replaced by the dealer, and never said much about it. I wonder what had happened if I had described the case to the press. After all, you could claim the design is defective since a broken switch shouldn't result in such a scenario. ... I still drive that same car btw, 10 years later. Nothing's ever broken down since ;)

  • Here's a question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:02PM (#31728708) Journal

    If the vehicle has that much computer controlled functionality, why doesn't the black box tell which pedals were pressed at the time of impact and for the moments before impact? The black box system is arguably an invasion of privacy, but in this case it would go a long way toward fixing the problem(s) and perhaps saving lives.

    • Re:Here's a question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SSpade ( 549608 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:07PM (#31728742) Homepage

      The black box system does tell you that, in some cases at least. And it says that the driver is slamming their foot on the gas. I tend to believe the black box - but it's based on the same sensors and software that's supposedly at fault...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        but it's based on the same sensors and software that's supposedly at fault...

        And who is it that's claiming the sensors and software are at fault? The people who were involved in the incidents, that's who. Of course they're claiming that; it's either make that claim or admit they screwed the pooch.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Buelldozer ( 713671 )

        How do you know that their system tells you that?

        NO ONE knows what the damn things record.

        http://www.newsweek.com/id/233585 [newsweek.com]

    • Black Box... (Score:3, Informative)

      by PixelScuba ( 686633 )
      It sometimes does [cnn.com]. From everything I can gather, the story reveals that the driver pressed the gas instead of the brake... revealed from the recorder box in the car.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by msauve ( 701917 )
        But, if there were a software problem where it incorrectly considered the accelerator as pressed, and the brake not, wouldn't that be what it recorded?

        IOW, showing that the system is self-consistent doesn't prove that it is correct.
    • Re:Here's a question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:34PM (#31728958)

      If the vehicle has that much computer controlled functionality, why doesn't the black box tell which pedals were pressed at the time of impact and for the moments before impact? The black box system is arguably an invasion of privacy, but in this case it would go a long way toward fixing the problem(s) and perhaps saving lives.

      I bought a brand new car in 2006. It was great for the first few months.

      Then about 4 months in, it acted strangely. If I put the throttle past 1/2-way, the car would start bucking wildly. It was as if I was alternating between *flooring it* and *idling* every second. It was major because merging into fast traffic and crossing busy intersections (from a stop sign) was a real pain. I had to take it to the dealer 3 times for them to find the problem; they thought "user-error", fuel line, transmission, etc.

      A sensor in the throttle assembly was faulty. It was reporting to the computer that I was flooring/idling/flooring/idling when in fact I obviously wasn't. It was showing the throttle position and everything.


      Had I gotten into an accident and someone looked at the black box, it would show the same thing. "Umm, he took his foot off the gas and then floored it, repeating. Probably drunk or distracted."

      • Re:Here's a question (Score:4, Informative)

        by SpeedBump0619 ( 324581 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:00PM (#31729188)

        The accelerator isn't a binary input, since it's measuring an analog range of pedal positions. From your description (and from the nature of the type of sensor I'm guessing they use) I'm guessing you were seeing sudden (not slewing) jumps between low and high values. If the sensor registers consistent jumps without any intermediate values the sensor is broken (and the software should detect such, as that's not a totally unheard of failure mode). I guarantee the control loop is sampling faster than you can slam it to the floor, which means it should be logging the transition values.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Buelldozer ( 713671 )

      You can't because Toyota won't show you that data. Their blackbox system is entirely CLOSED. In fact there was an article here on /. not that long ago about how there was precisely ONE laptop in the entire United States that was capable of reading the blackbox data.

  • by Jimbookis ( 517778 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:02PM (#31728716)
    I suspect it's got something to do with the idle left foot getting involved as well. I drive manuals (stick shift for you Septics) and have a strong preference for them. Occasionally when I drive an automatic I get a brain fart and I am trying to de-assert (haha I am a programmer) the non-existent clutch I end up hitting the brake and wondering WTF is going on. Same goes when one wears thongs (jandles/flipflops) and driving one gets the brake being pressed at the same time as the accelerator. How many old people with low muscle tone are wearing broad soled shoes nowadays?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ...for you Septics

      In case anyone else is as puzzled as I am -- it turns out that's rhyming slang for yank. (Septic tank, got it?)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This assumes there is only 1 problem, not a half dozen different problems occuring in different situations. Yes, there are probably some that are putting their foot on the wrong pedal, that happens with every make and model of vehicle out there. Lets say statistically all cars have some percentage of elderly putting their foot on the wrong pedal, subtract them out and look at what's left. Serious electrical or mechanical issues can be lost in the noise.

  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:04PM (#31728730)
    I resemble that remark you young whipper-snapper!
    Now get off my lawn before I accelerate uncontrollably and run you down!
    God-damned kids!
  • Could this have anything to do with this recent slashdot story?
    Time Flies By As You Get Older [slashdot.org]

    • The real explanation could be as simple as "Those 55 and older are the ones who can afford to buy the cars in question".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Zebra_X ( 13249 )

        Possibly, but that should be easy to answer. We need the data for ages for all owners of the affected cars.

      • by gemtech ( 645045 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:33PM (#31728944)
        bingo. Ok, ok, I'm 53. But I have a 2007 Toyota Avalon that had not one, but 3 recalls so far (accelerator pedal sticking on the mat, little metal plate to do whatever, and an oil line problem).
        The problem (as I see it) is a stackup of features:
        pushbutton start/stop, and it doesn't stop when I momentarily push it.:
        accelerator pedal by wire.:
        transmission shift by wire.:
        There is nothing in the owners manual that would tell me that you have to hold in the start/stop button in to stop it, I looked. That is beyond bullshit. I want a car that turns off when I tell it to, I will deal with the lack of power steering (you don't need it at 120mph) and a couple of power brake pedal pushes (the engine isn't making vacuume at full throttle anyway).
        This is either an embedded software bug (it has issues with the cruise control sometimes when pulling a mountain) or RF susceptibility. At no time does ANYONE test for RF susceptibility with a nearby trucker running a linear amplifier on his CB radio. It is well above CE test limits.
  • Other possibility (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Heshler ( 1191623 )
    TFA is actually quite convincing; however, might I suggest another possibility? It could be that short or elderly drivers are less easily able to react/respond to the unintended acceleration, and as a result are more likely to get in an accident as the result of the problem. Perhaps the author of this study could compare his data to the demographic/height distributions of various types of traffic accidents to test this hypothesis.
  • Non-issue (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anenome ( 1250374 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:31PM (#31728934)

    What it means is that there's likely zero problem with Toyota's cars and there never was.

    What's happening is that people are missing the brake pedal and hitting the gas pedal without realizing it. Their car then speeds up, shocking them, and since they think they're foot is on the brake they slam it all the way down, stomp on it, etc., and it just keeps going.

    The elderly do this all the time.

    Toyota's are just really popular cars, and some lawyer out there smelled blood.

    And right now is a really good time to buy a Toyota. You'll get the deal of a lifetime :)

    • Re:Non-issue (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:56PM (#31729568) Homepage Journal

      Only if you can explain why the bumbling elderly somehow manage not to have wrong pedal crashes in other cars with the same frequency. If the explanation was "old drivers", then Lincoln and Cadillac would top the charts.

      Can you also explain how a wrong pedal incident would lead to reliable reports of smoke pouring out of the wheels of a runaway car?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Inominate ( 412637 )

        It's easy to explain. "Unintended acceleration" from hitting the wrong pedal is a common cause of accidents, especially among the elderly, and it's easily accepted as driver error. As soon as there is a report of it being the fault of some specific car, it opens a way for everyone involved in the accident to avoid blame, and potentially collect more money.

        Had an accident in a toyota? Now not only was it not your fault, but you might get money out of it!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IICV ( 652597 )

        How do you know they don't have wrong pedal crashes in other cars with the same frequency? This Toyota recall has pulled people out of the woodwork and drawn the media into a frenzy; how do you know the incidence rate isn't equivalent for other cars?

        • Because Toyota hasn't pointed it out. Don't you think that if these incidents occured across all cars, the Toyota would have pointed it out by now?

          Usually the best indication that something is not a defense is that the defense ain't using it.

      • There was a consumer report issue on this (I think it was consumer report), they put all segment of age in a car , then induced circumstance where the brake had to be used. And overwhelmly , older people mistook the brake and accelerator much much more than younger people ! I can't find the report anymore because now google is FLOODED with toyota accelerator "problem", so it makes search for anything older difficult. And my own ancecdotal evidence, a lot of the accident you see in the news, people plowing
        • case in point : (Score:4, Informative)

          by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @05:35AM (#31731500)
          "But one shouldn't believe the hype. We went through this a generation ago with the Audi 5000 and other autos accused of sudden acceleration, and, again, mysterious unknowable car components were supposedly at fault. In a North Carolina case I worked on, the plaintiff's expert theorized that electromagnetic transmissions from submarines might have set off the throttle via the cruise control, though, unsurprisingly, he was not able to duplicate the effect while driving around electrical towers with much greater electromagnetic interference. Back then, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) spent millions studying the issue. They found that sudden acceleration was several times more likely among elderly drivers than young drivers, and much more frequent among the very short or someone who had just gotten into a vehicle. Electromagnetic rays don't discriminate by age and height, which suggests very much that human factors were at play: in other words, pedal misapplication. A driver would step on the wrong pedal, panic when the car did not perform as expected, continue to mistake the accelerator for the brake, and press down on the accelerator even harder. This had disastrous consequences in a 1992 Washington Square Park incident that killed five and a 2003 Santa Monica Farmers' Market incident that killed ten the New York driver, Stella Maycheck, was 74 (and quite short); the California driver, George Russell Weller, 86. We're seeing the same pattern again today. Initial reports of a problem, followed by dozens of new reports coming to light as people seek to blame their earlier accidents on sudden acceleration."
  • by jms ( 11418 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:44PM (#31729046)

    The data in question catagorizes fatalities. Elderly people are often
    killed by accidents that would only injure a young person. This could explain
    the data skew regardless of whether or there is an actual accelerator defect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Roughly 55% of Prius fatalities are from elderly drivers (elderly being over 60) and 15% of general fatalities are from elderly drivers. So yes, they are over represented per mile driven, but that alone can't explain the numbers presented.
  • by DreamOfPeace ( 873093 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @09:47PM (#31729074)
    Look how many have a name that starts with U indicating that U the customer are the problem.
  • Statistics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlueBoxSW.com ( 745855 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:02PM (#31729202) Homepage

    First thing you would need, if you really wanted to see if there was a correlation, would be the age distribution of Toyota drivers.

    If, perhaps, the distribution looked just like this graph, it would mean nothing.

    If, perhaps, the distribution of driver ages skewed to younger drivers, or showed a flat pattern, then you might have something.

    Without that baseline, it isn't even worth coming up with theories.

  • Context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Graff ( 532189 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:12PM (#31729254)

    These numbers are meaningless without the proper context.

    First of all, what is the percentage of ownership, by driver age. In other words: Do a disproportionate amount of older people buy these cars?

    Secondly, what is the comparable accident percentage, by car manufacturer and driver age. In other words: Do older people have a problem with all manufacturers or only Toyota?

    Lastly, 24 incidents is way too few to make any kind of sane inference. Once you break it down by age category you have some categories that only have one to three members. At that low an amount they could simply represent random chance and not some sort of trend.

    When you have such a low number you have two choices: ignore the problem or dig deeper beyond these simple statistics. Given that people's lives (and Toyota's reputation) are at stake I'd say that Toyota is doing the right thing by dissecting the cars and chasing every possible problem. If they find something then they can fix it, if they don't find anything then at least they gave it their best and can honestly say that these incidents seem to be user error.

  • by assertation ( 1255714 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:55PM (#31729558)

    I started car shopping shortly after the bad press about Toyota broke. I always wanted a Corolla because of its great reputation.

    I tried researching the issue, but nobody had hard numbers to firmly establish that the hype was hype. All I got were anecdotal accounts along the lines of "we've had Toyotas for years we love them". The only numbers I did get were that Toyotas got in more accidents per a given number of cars than Hondas, though it wasn't established if it was the car or the driver.

    It occurred to me that the main reason I started thinking about the Corolla was reliability....in other words, not having to think about my car and here I was scouring the internet doing research.

    Finally, the 2010 Car Buying Guide of The Consumer Reports came out. Everything that attracted me to the Corolla, reliability and safety seemed to rated slightly higher in the 2010 Civic.

    If my current car was in better shape I probably would have waited 6 months for the smoke to clear before giving up on getting a Corolla.

    My intuition is that a significant amount of bad hype is involved( though not the only issue going on ), but when it comes time to put down tens of thousands of dollars of your own money and take risks that could hurt you personally, your attitude changes.

    I don't like spending more money for a Honda, but I can and given what is at risk it is not worth it to take a chance on a Corolla in the next few weeks.

    I think getting their electronics analyzed by NASA is the smartest thing Toyota can do. They need a detached third party body with a stellar reputation to reassure people to clear their name.

  • by Jollyeugene ( 230857 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @10:59PM (#31729592)

    According to TTAC, the number #1 vehicle for unintended acceleration is the Lincoln TownCar. The Ford Police cruiser is one of the lowest, however. Funny thing is that, mechanically-- they are the same car. The difference is the people who drive them-- one group being highly trained with fast reaction times, and the other group-- well not so much.

    It is not just age distribution that they need to look at with Toyota, it is the complete demographic of the Toyota owner. Car enthusiasts do not usually buy Toyota's these days. Toyota's are incredibly boring in appearance and they handle like slugs. The are anti-exciting, right up there with a root canal. The average Toyota driver is the person in the fast lane doing 45mph and texting someone at the same time. For the average user, unintended acceleration happens everytime they touch that strange scary pedal on the right. When you add in that their brakes are likely shot because they drag them all the damn time while talking on their i-phone going down the road-- and never do routine maintenance on their vehicle: it is no wonder they can't stop.

    Toyota's main problem is that they decided to make cars for idiots and got bit by that (granted that is a large market share, just ask Microsoft).

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @11:03PM (#31729624) Homepage

    1) Older people have slower reflexes. A thirty-year-old is more likely to regain control of a runaway without incident than a seventy-year-old regardless of the cause.
    2) Older people are not as strong. A twenty-year-old may be able to stop a runaway by hitting the brakes where a seventy-year-old can't.
    3) Regardless of whether or not Toyota has a computer problem, some of the Toyota runaways are probably due to "wrong pedal syndrome". What is the age distribution for "runaway" accidents for all makes?
    4) As others have pointed out, the elderly are more likely to die in accidents.
    5) As others have pointed out, the sample is too small to justify any conclusions about age.

  • by SlappyBastard ( 961143 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:14AM (#31730086) Homepage

    Anyone remember that gem of litigation? The one where people won lawsuits claiming breast implants caused chronic fatigue syndrome despite the fact the rate of chronic fatigue among breast implant patients was the same as the general population.

    The law isn't about the truth. It's about narrative.

    Look at the Tylenol scare. There's only one way to respond as a company in that situation. Toyota's great sin is that they held back and waited for the truth.

  • I've driven recent model cars in both the US and Germany. When comparing things like fuel economy and performance, here's a short list of things people tend to forget:

    Driving in the US means much more driving very long distances compared to Europe. So many of my European colleagues just don't grok this until I describe a few things. For example, an 8 hour drive from Phoenix to LA at 70+ miles per hour, then show them on a map how little of the US that actually covers. I do that, then ask them how far away they'd be if they drove for 8 hours from their house at that speed (as if it were possible).

    Distances impact the relative "feel" of fuel costs. I live in a rural part of the country (as do 42% of McMericans). It's several miles drive for me to get to groceries. It can be a 45 minute commute at highway speeds just to get to work (not for me, but it's common enough). You just use a lot more fuel. This is also why public transportation is so much more difficult to make practical here. The distribution of population is radically different. Much of the US was settled after the advent of personal transportation that you didn't have to feed and water.

    To my German friends -- don't feel bad about not quite fully understanding that sheer size and scope of the U.S. You aren't the first from Germany (well, technically Austria I suppose) to make that mistake. (poke).

    P.S. - On the whole Automatic vs. Manual transmission thing -- I've certainly driven both. People claiming better turns on sweeping mountain roads and are driving front wheel drive cars are pretty much full of crap. Sure, a manual will give you a real edge with a rear wheel drive car. Otherwise, get over yourself and quit pretending your an F1 driver in your silly little consumer box.

    When I drive in Europe, I make an effort to rent a small automatic. It costs more. Why? Because I don't know the roads well and my attention is full enough paying attention to the different road etiquette and the GPS combined with signs in different shapes than I'm used to and frequently in languages I don't speak.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.