The Mystery of Sudden Acceleration

Here is Ted Frank on the Toyota sudden acceleration problem. 

The Los Angeles Times recently did a story detailing all of the NHTSA reports of Toyota “sudden acceleration” fatalities, and, though the Times did not mention it, the ages of the drivers involved were striking.

In the 24 cases where driver age was reported or readily inferred, the drivers included those of the ages 60, 61, 63, 66, 68, 71, 72, 72, 77, 79, 83, 85, 89–and I’m leaving out the son whose age wasn’t identified, but whose 94-year-old father died as a passenger.

These “electronic defects” apparently discriminate against the elderly, just as the sudden acceleration of Audis and GM autos did before them.

Statistical Addendum: A number of commentators are worried about selection effects (hat tip Don).  Here is background information from FARS.  In 2008 there were 50,186 drivers involved in a car accident with a
fatality. Of these 8066 were 60 years of age or over. Thus in 2008 the
probability that a driver in a car accident with a fatality was 60
years of age or over was 16%. Using the figures above the probability
that a driver in a car accident involving sudden acceleration in a Toyota was about
54%. Of course, the sample size is very small.


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