All posts tagged: Toyota

Message to Toyota: Police Pursuits Are No Joke

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Opinion Article

Suppose you’re a homeowner who has watched your neighborhood deteriorate since drug dealers moved in. The drug traffic has disturbed your peace, destroyed the lives of friends, and threatened your security.

Then suppose you turn on the TV and see a commercial for a product considered socially responsible: a low water-use toilet. The manufacturer, worried that customers think its flushing power ineffectual, has devised a new “humorous” ad. It depicts a panicked drug dealer reacting to police pounding on his door by running to the bathroom with a bag of cocaine. The camera cuts to police ramming the entry, then back to the dealer, calmly munching corn chips. The ad’s caption: “No Matter the Rush, It’s Gone in One Flush!”

No advertising company would propose such an ad, and no manufacturer would buy it. It would outrage the law-abiding public and law enforcement at all levels.

Yet for months Toyota has run a series of ads that strike both police and the family members of one group of crime victims as just this outrageous. The first spot aired during the Super Bowl.

A group of bank robbers, finding their getaway car has been towed, steal a Prius. They elude police, driving for miles at high speeds. Meanwhile, citizens tweet the thieves’ exploits and hang out banners to cheer them on as they speed by. The chase goes on endlessly, without even near-miss collisions, as if pursuits always unrolled in the sedate manner of the slow-motion chase of O. J. Simpson on highways that had been cleared of most other traffic.

In real life, police pursuits can quickly turn deadly. An FBI study found that about half of all pursuits last less than two minutes, and 70% end within six minutes — usually in a crash. Sometimes the fleeing driver slams into a wall, injuring or killing only himself. But too often he slams into another, innocent driver.

Records kept by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 1979 show that about one person a day dies in a pursuit-related crash and that over one-third of those killed are innocent bystanders. The real number of pursuit-related deaths is probably higher.

USA Today investigators who tabulated media-reported pursuits found that the NHTSA undercounted chase-related deaths in 2013 by at least 31%. One reason: accident report forms often don’t ask whether a pursuit preceded a crash.

Researchers for the International Association of Chiefs of Police reported in 2008 that over 91% of vehicular pursuits are triggered by non-violent crimes, and that in over 42% of cases, police pursue for minor traffic violations.

Patrol officers see small infractions as clues to larger crimes — and a suspect’s refusal to stop seems an admission of guilt. It is true that police frequently discover, after the crash, that a suspect was driving a stolen vehicle. But by then the stolen property is irrecoverable.

You can replace a ruined car, but you cannot replace the life of an innocent bystander victim. That’s why the national nonprofit PursuitSAFETY urges law enforcement to pursue only violent felony suspects. It also urges law enforcement to train officers to use safe practices in situations that often trigger pursuits. Another organization, Pursuit For Change, pushes these reforms while promoting new technologies that could help officers apprehend suspects without the dangerous chase.

Both groups have asked Toyota to pull the offensive Prius ads. Toyota has responded with tone-deaf excuses.

Toyota Operations Supervisor Nicole Redd’s response to a letter from PursuitSAFETY volunteer Patti DeAngelis (whose daughter died last September due to a pursuit in San Joaquin County, California) is typical. “We are sorry you did not enjoy our . . . commercial. Our intention was to focus on the typical misconceptions about hybrids . . . in a fun and humorous way.” In other words, “That was a joke! Didn’t you get it?”

The American public doesn’t get it. We regard vehicular flight and pursuit with too much fascination and too little alarm. We thrill to movie depictions of impossible chases. The camera sweeps past fiery crashes and crumpled vehicles, never showing us the human cost. Reckless scofflaws conclude that you can flee police and get away, while the rest of us don’t suspect we could be victims — until it happens to someone we love.

Free-lance writer and editor Ellen Deitz Tucker began advocating reforms to police pursuit policy after her sister and a friend were killed by a fleeing driver in Belmont, NC in 2012.

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An Open Letter To Toyota USA

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An Open Letter To Toyota USA
May 2, 2016

Hello Toyota,

I thought I’d drop you a quick note. I’d like to reintroduce you to Paul Farris (www.paulfarris.org). I recently talked about him with you, but perhaps you’ve already forgotten.

Paul is my son. Paul is DEAD. Yes, dead for 9 years – killed at age 23. He was an innocent bystander caught up in a police pursuit.

Sadly, he died in a police pursuit similar to those currently being trivialized by your Prius television commercials. It was a police chase that also killed another innocent man and severely injured Paul’s soul mate, Kate.

I know your Marketing and Communications folks have already visited my websites and that pleases me immensely.

I am thrilled that your Marketing leader and I will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face in May 2016.

And I am truly hopeful we will find common ground to support one another’s goals – you selling more cars and me saving many more lives by partnering with law enforcement and legislators to prevent unnecessary police pursuits.

I am honored that you listened to me a month ago and that you made the very responsible decision to discontinue the original Prius police chase / bank robber Super Bowl advertisements.

However, the story does not end there. Not only did you continue your second commercial (with a Prius police car), but you have just launched a truly reprehensible third ad. This one has a group of idiots, driving on a highway and playing ‘chicken’ in front of law enforcement officers pursuing the robbers (https://goo.gl/UNeK1j).

Apparently this is simply a “cute” commercial to you and your advertising agency.

Toyota, Toyota, Toyota. Do you not understand that these commercials are not “cute” in any way whatsoever?

These ads send an incredibly socially irresponsible message to viewers that it’s OK to disrespect law enforcement. And they are certainly not funny to the thousands of us who suffer daily with the deaths or injuries of loved ones as the result of dangerous police chases.

So as a result Toyota, these commercial continue to disrespect Paul, my family, other victims and especially all law enforcement officers who risk their lives for our safety.

Why are you running these ads? May I assume it is to sell your very socially responsible, environmentally friendly Prius?

Perhaps we should not be surprised that Toyota is sending mixed messages: selling a socially responsible ‘green’ vehicle while telling the viewing public it’s OK to drive dangerously and interfere with police.

In your $1.3 billion settlement for covering deadly safety defects, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called out Toyota’s “shameful” behavior that “showed blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers.” Perhaps laws and safety truly are that low on Toyota’s priority list?

Yes Toyota, I know that you spend billions of dollars on advertising. And perhaps because of that it will be tough for my message to be heard – because media certainly doesn’t want to lose the revenue you provide. I would actually match you dollar for dollar just to stop these ads – if I had an extra billion – but I’m a few dollars short.

So instead I’ll continue to share Paul’s story and use Pursuit For Change as my socially responsible vehicle for truly important change. Changes that will save lives of innocent individuals and law enforcement officers. Many of whom we save will be Toyota drivers. And perhaps one of those saved will be a Toyota employee, or the son or daughter of a Toyota employee.

So Toyota, take a deep breath, step up to the plate and pull the plug on all of your police chase ads today.

I will most certainly thank you. And I know Paul would be grateful, too, if he was still here.

 

Jonathan Farris is Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change. Jon’s son Paul was killed in a horrific police pursuit crash outside of Boston in May 2007. Jon can be reached at Jon@PursuitForChange.org.

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Toyota Prius police chase advertising

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Help us get these offensive ads off the air. Toyota is totally disrespecting law enforcement and all the thousands of victims who can no longer speak for them selves.

Jon Farris is still working on this ‪#‎PoliceChase‬ ad problem. The original Super Bowl ad has been removed from the air permanently. We are attempting to have the others stopped immediately. Toyota USA VP of Marketing and Communications (the ad boss) is meeting with Pursuit For Change Chief Advocate and founder, Jon Farris, in May 2016.

Sign our Change petition to help the cause.

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