Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…


Patriotic Toyotas

Continuing his campaign to be Writer of the Decade (2001 to 2011), Robert Wright takes on the Toyota madness.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations (explained in a footnote below) suggest that if you drive one of the Toyotas recalled for acceleration problems and don’t bother to comply with the recall, your chances of being involved in a fatal accident over the next two years because of the unfixed problem are a bit worse than one in a million — 2.8 in a million, to be more exact. Meanwhile, your chances of being killed in a car accident during the next two years just by virtue of being an American are one in 5,244.

Prius KnobIncidentally, I did an experiment in my Prius the other day to make sure it would go into neutral just in case I am one of the 2.8.

Ever seen the knob of a Prius?

See that circle thingie at the intersection of the lines. The knob just kind of sits at the circle thingie. To shift into neutral, you push the knob to the left and  when you let it go, it springs back to the circle position. Down for engine braking etc.

So, here’s the thing. You can’t you just tap it over to the N. You have to hold it there for like half a second.

I wonder if the out-of-control people did a little tap and panicked when the car kept accelerating?

TAP!  ZOMG! TAP! It won’t go in neutral!! Tap! Tap! Tap! Aaaaaaargh!!!!!

Wright is right though.

But it worries me that this Toyota thing worries us so much. We live in a world where responding irrationally to risk (say, the risk of a terrorist attack) can lead us to make mistakes (say, invading Iraq). So the Toyota story is a kind of test of our terrorism-fighting capacity — our ability to keep our wits about us when things seem spooky.

Passing the test depends on lots of things. It depends on politicians resisting the temptation to score cheap points via the exploitation of irrational fear. It depends on journalists doing the same. And it depends on Americans in general keeping cool, notwithstanding the likely failure of many politicians and journalists to do their part.

So go out today and buy a Toyota. It’s the patriotic thing to do.

He’s wrong about the last bit though. Don’t buy a Prius. Not because they might crash. But because they’re crap.