Leave My Brakes Alone, Mr. LaHood

I’m sorry but I need to use the phrase “You must be kidding me.” There, I don’t feel any better, but it needed to be said:

U.S. regulators may urge automakers to install brake-override systems on new vehicles following an inquiry into reports of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. cars and trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is “looking at the possibility of recommending the brake override system in all manufactured automobiles,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at a Senate hearing today on Toyota’s recalls. The software can slow vehicles in the event of unintended acceleration.

No. No. No. Another mandated safety device will not do anything to help and will indeed tend to hinder. How in the world will the device “know” that the acceleration is unintended? I know, I know, we are going to use some flawless software to sort this out.

There is a way of stopping rapid acceleration for runaway vehicles already. Actually, there are a few ways:

1. Get your foot off the accelerator. (Many cases of stuck acceleration may be traced back to wrong-footing it.)

or

2. Put your foot on the brake pedal. (I’m pretty sure vehicles still have them, right?)

or

3. Put the vehicle in neutral. (Most automobiles still have neutral, don’t they?)

Allow me to say that Secretary LaHood has a solution in search of a problem here. A solution which will, like altogether too many government solutions, increase the cost of the products involved–without addressing the single largest unsafe component in the equation: the driver.

The car companies have sold hundreds of millions of vehicles and have had reports of thousands of “unintended acceleration” events. In Toyota’s case, about 2600 reports in the last 10 years. Oh, and Ford had 3,526 reports of the same type of problem in the same time period. Do you not know that people tend to say whatever they want to if it will absolve them of responsibility? I have firsthand knowledge of this with reference to an “accident” which was blamed on a malfunctioning transmission.

If there are problems with vehicles from Toyota, Ford, or even GM–then those problems should be detailed, confirmed, and addressed within the context of current law. More laws/regulations which are intended to remove the onus of personal responsibility and proper decision making from individuals are not helping anyone but those who believe that you and I are simply incapable of caring for ourselves.