Letters from the week of April 30, 2009
Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing that story about the Prius brake and acceleration problems! Our 2008 Prius had a brake problem resulting in a rear-end collision, and we started looking for other reported problems. We were directed to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration hotline and website, where you can report issues that you believe to be safety issues. We found 44 reports on this government website of brakes not working and Toyota not finding a problem.
The failure reports ("complaints") are available to the public on the NHTSA website. The details are these: Through March 2009, the U.S. Generation 2 Prius (2004-2009) received 44 complaints of low-speed brake failure, compared to seven complaints of such failures for 2004-2009 Corollas, a car that has traditional brakes. Given that about five times more Corollas than Priuses were sold during that period, 44/(7/5) = 31 times the rate of brake failure for the Generation 2 Prius. Many of the Prius low-speed brake failures were in low-speed city traffic, resulting in rear-end collisions without injury. It appears that the several computers that control the complex braking systems were too busy calculating the most efficient way to apply the brakes, and did not get around to actually applying them until it was too late. Toyota never took responsibility for the problem, but the reported complete redesign of the 2010 Prius braking systems indicates they were aware of it. Unfortunately, the NHTSA never initiated an investigation, despite the extremely high rate of failures.
Why does the NHTSA continue to ignore this problem? Probably because the injury rate is low due to the low-speed nature of many of these failures. Please continue your coverage until some action is taken!
Craig and Fran Gander
As their Priuses surged up to 90 mph, did none of the drivers think to turn off the ignition and pop on the hazards? Or slip the transmission into neutral? Admittedly, this might cause them to be rear-ended on the "Crazy Monkey" (freeway), but this would be a better alternative to flying off the road into rivers. Such skills ought to be taught in driver's-ed courses, since many cars are wont to surge the rpms under various defects or disrepair.
R. M. Fransson
Correction: In "Wild Rides," Paul Knight wrote that Toyota responded to claims of an acceleration problem in Priuses by recalling faulty floor mats. In fact, it didn't. During a recall of floor mats used in other Toyota models, Prius owners were simply cautioned to make sure their floor mats were properly installed.
Like Stephanie Shearer, I've been in love with the EZE Mop building for years, and look at it every time I drive along 17th Avenue. Although I've never been lucky enough to go inside, I was excited to read Patricia Calhoun's column and learn that I soon will get my chance. I like the idea of retail shops with activity on the street. And I especially like the fact that they're going to save the sign.
I want to thank Westword for Melanie Asmar's live-blogging of the Angie Zapata trial. I thought she gave excellent coverage of what was going on — much better than the online Denver Post or KUSA coverage. The jury gave Mr. Andrade what he justly deserved — a long, long time in prison.
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