I don't know whether to laugh or cry after reading this story about the Toyota unintended acceleration "problem." It turns out that Toyota was right all along; the problem was not electrical. In fact, it's likely that the biggest problem was with the people driving the cars mistaking the brake for the gas. This is exactly what Toyota was saying last year when they were called before Congress and subjected to the manufactured outrage of so many theatrical congressfolks.
The president of Toyota - not to mention the company's shareholders - deserve an apology from those members of Congress who jumped to conclusions before the facts were known. But I am sure Mr. Toyoda is not holding his breath.
So why is this an issue for SentenceSpeak, dear reader? This kind of knee-jerk, uninformed reaction has marked federal anti-crime policymaking for too long.
According to the AP story on Toyota's vindication:
Congress considered sweeping safety legislation last year that would have required brake override systems, raised penalties on auto companies that evade safety recalls and given the government the power to quickly recall vehicles. But the bills failed to win enough support, and it remains unclear if Congress will pursue similar legislation before the 2012 elections.
You see, Congress was ready to pass "sweeping" legislation before waiting for the Transportation Department's study into the cause of the problem. In fact, the government could only confirm five deaths from unintended acceleration and couldn't confirm any of them were the result of Toyota's alleged flaw, but such trivial details were not going to stop Congress from acting.
Does this sound familiar? Think crack. After basketball star Len Bias died in 1986, Congress rushed through harsh new mandatory minimum sentences without so much as a hearing. When the media publicized a few, scary car theft-turned-homicides, Congress jumped in and made carjacking a federal crime. Time and time again, Congress has acted in the name of "public safety" without even the slightest hint of study or reflection.
Here, with Toyota, the overreaction has had severe economic impacts on the company. That's bad, but the company will survive. When Congress overreacts on anti-crime issues, however, the lives of individuals and families are ruined.