You may have heard tell of some teeny little safety problems with Toyotas. Maybe you've been following the story since the "fatal floor mats" in September. Or maybe the massive recall caught your eye, or the Toyota CEO humbling himself in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The story's out there, and consumers are bit wary of buying a car these days.
Phooey, says Robert Wright in The New York Times:
I drive a 2005 Toyota Highlander, and ever since I read about the case of the 63-year-old Harvard professor, I've felt ... well, nothing in particular. I mean, I'm sorry about the professor and his family, but I think this whole Toyota thing is overblown.
Getting down to "do the math," he points out the vanishingly small chance of a fatal accident in a Toyota. So why the panic? Wright suggests that "not all deaths are created equal." There's something extra-terrifying about the idea of "your car seizing control of itself and taking you on a harrowing death ride." But as Wright very reasonably, if coldly, observes,
the fact that a feature of a car can be fatal isn't necessarily a persuasive objection to it. One feature that all cars possess and that has been shown to cause death is motion. But we've decided that the benefits of automated motion are worth the cost of more than 30,000 American lives each year.
Then Wright really gets going. While admitting that good mileage is less worth a life than "God or country," he argues that "bad mileage means consuming more gas, creating more pollution and contributing to global warming--and so ultimately translates into lost or degraded lives." It's even worse, he continues, if you consider that dollars wasted on gas are dollars you've no chance of sending to Africa to save the hungry and sick. Wright closes by calling Toyota "a test of our terrorism-fighting capacity--our ability to keep our wits about us when things seem spooky," and tells Americans to go buy Toyotas today to fight the country's irrational response to risk--"it's the patriotic thing to do."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.