A Distracting Euphemism from the Secretary of Transportation

Wall Street Journal editorial, “”Pedal Misapplications’: Ray LaHood recants on Toyota“:

A record $48.8 million in fines, nearly eight million vehicle recalls, hundreds of lawsuits and one humiliating set of Congressional grillings later, we finally learned Tuesday that Toyota cars can’t magically accelerate on their own. So what happened? “Pedal misapplications.”

Now there’s a euphemism for the bureaucratic ages. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood couldn’t bring himself to say “driver error” and he grew testy with a reporter who dared to put it so bluntly. But that’s what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, conducted over 10 months with the help of NASA engineers, concluded. Or to put it in plain English: Drivers, in moments of panic, sometimes mistake the accelerator for the brake.

That’s an uncomfortable finding for politicians, plaintiffs attorneys and “safety advocates” who have tried for years to squeeze money out of big auto makers, including Audi, Ford, General Motors and others.

The scientific study was only necessary because trial lawyers, politicians, “consumer” groups and media ginned up a public hysteria, the Journal observes, concluding: “Mr. LaHood played to those galleries at the time rather than contributing to public understanding, so we can understand why he prefers euphemisms now.”

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