U.S. News & World Report
By Peter Roff
Posted: September 9, 2010
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood should resign.
There's really no other way for him to adequate apologize for the damage he did to Toyota by running his mouth before making sure his brain was in gear.
Recall that back in February, rumors of potential problems with Japanese automakers' fleet of vehicles began to dominate the news. Stories began to appear of strange, unexplained incidents in which Toyotas mysteriously began to accelerate of their own accord, failing to slow or stop when the driver depressed the brake pedal.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when LaHood responded to the media's concern about the safety of the vehicles by suggesting that anyone who didn't feel safe behind the wheel of a Toyota should "stop driving" them. Remember too that this whole drama unfolded as the U.S. government was taking extraordinary steps to keep two of the "Big Three" U.S. automakers from going under, essentially by taking an ownership stake in the companies.
LaHood later apologized for making the suggestion--but his apology was a little like locking the garage door after the car has been stolen and chopped up for parts. It did little good--at least it did little good for Toyota; GM and Chrysler had a couple of good months there for a while.
Flash forward a few months and we find that, according to a preliminary report made by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration cited in Monday's Washington Post, the thing most responsible for the problems the Toyota drivers experienced was, you guessed it, operator error.
"Of the 58 data recorders analyzed by the agency and the company, 35 showed that the brake pedal was not depressed at the time of the crash. Partial braking was involved in 14 other cases," the Post wrote before getting to the key point: "Drivers were hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake."
President Barack Obama is getting ready, if he gets his way, to hand LaHood a large chunk of his proposed new $50,000,000,000 in infrastructure spending. Based on how he handled the Toyota business, at least in public, he can't be trusted with the money.
Ray LaHood wants to make America's highways and byways safer. For him to go home to Illinois might be a good first step down that road.