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KAI RYSSDAL: Toyota seems to have caught a break in its ongoing unintended acceleration nightmare. Federal safety officials say, from the car’s black box, it sure looks like that New York woman who crashed her Prius into a rock wall was actually pressing the gas pedal, not the brake. To be sure, there have been substantiated problems with the brakes on Priuses.
But commentator and comedian Marc Jaffe says the Prius brand might actually benefit.
Marc Jaffe: As the owner of a 2010 Prius, I’m concerned about the recent problems associated with the car, but I have to say that I am thrilled with my Prius and Toyota. This fiasco has given me a whole new persona. I used to be Mr. Responsible — a guy who cared about the environment, but always lost the chicks to the dashingly dangerous sports car driver. Now, I’m the one who is dangerous and turning heads as I cruise around, a bottle of lemon-flavored water in my cup holder.
Back when a Prius was a sign of staid prudence, my wife complained that I had begun driving like an old man, as I would ease up on the gas pedal for better mileage, driving below the speed limit. Now she swoons when I walk in the door safely after a grocery run, perhaps a little surprised that I’ve come back alive from facing such peril. Who’s potentially going too fast now, baby?
Driving has become a pleasure. I hate having cars blocking my way. As of last week, I feel like Moses as I watch the sea of drivers part in front of me to get out of my path. The wide open road beckons. Oh what a feeling, Toyota!
And I’m not worried about speeding. The cops seem to have granted me immunity. I think they’re afraid that stopping me will mean literally getting in front of me and stopping me.
I once saw someone driving a Prius with yellow and orange license plates, which here in Ohio signify that they had been caught for drunk driving. I thought that there was some kind of incongruity in that picture. It screamed “responsible irresponsibility.” I don’t know what it was saying: “I care but not completely?” “My car’s not a guzzler, but I am?”
But now I understand the zen of that dichotomy. If Toyota is looking for a spokesperson that exemplifies the whole new Prius image then I am he. I am conscientiousness and danger rolled into one. Dependability and risk in a single combustible package. Watch out honey, I’m coming at you as fast as this accelerator will take me — while still getting at least 40 miles to the gallon.
Ryssdal: Marc Jaffe is a comedy writer. He lives near Cleveland, Ohio.
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