Magazine article USA TODAY

Toyota Distractions Could Endanger Safety

Magazine article USA TODAY

Toyota Distractions Could Endanger Safety

Article excerpt

The full extent of defects in Toyota accelerators, brakes, fuel lines, and other equipment may not be known for years, according to automotive safety specialist John Graham, dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, but the immediate risk, he cautions, is that Toyota's problems may cause regulators, elected officials, and the public to steer away from more effective safety improvement strategies: reducing drinking and driving; increasing the use of seat belts and child safety restraints; and curbing distracted driving (cell phones and texting).

"The history of the auto industry reveals that the public concern about vehicle defect cases is often far greater than is justified by the actual degree of rise Graham contends. "This is what we now realize about the Ford Pinto gas-tank concerns of the 1970s, the Ford 'park-to-reverse' issue in the 1980s, and the airbag-induced injury claims of the 1990s."

Nevertheless, in recent months, Toyota has recalled more than 7,000,000 vehicles for problems that include sticking accelerator pedals on several models and braking troubles on Prius hybrids. …

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