What Makes a Car Unsafe?

Malcolm Gladwell: “The public approach to auto safety is preoccupied with what might go wrong mechanically with the vehicles we drive. But the chief factor is not what we drive; it is how we drive. Richard Schmidt, who is perhaps the world’s leading expert on pedal error, says that the Toyota sudden-acceleration controversy ought to have triggered a national discussion about safer driving. He argues for overturning the deeply held—and, in his view, irrational—proscription against two-foot driving. If drivers used one foot for the accelerator and the other foot for the brake, he says, they would be far less likely to mistake one pedal for the other. Accidents could be prevented; lives could be saved.”

“But in order to talk about solving the pedal-error problem you have to accept the fact that, when it comes to saving lives, things like the number of police on the road, and the price of alcohol, and the techniques we use to drive our cars are vastly more important than where a car’s gas tank is mounted.

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