Hey, Ray LaHood, can I borrow your car?

Despite Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's comments Wednesday, the owner of this recalled Toyota still needs to drive.

Lauren Victoria Burke/AP
Testifying before a House panel Feb. 3, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said owners of recalled Toyotas should stop driving their vehicles and get them fixed. He later issued a statement urging them instead to contact their dealer and get the problem fixed as soon as possible.

Dear Secretary LaHood:

Thanks for clearing up that little matter about not driving a recalled Toyota.

As the owner of a 2009 Toyota Camry, I'm glad to know that when you said, "If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it," you didn't really mean it.

What you meant to say was in the statement you released later Wednesday: "I want to encourage owners of any recalled Toyota models to contact their local dealer and get their vehicles fixed as soon as possible."

Speaking for myself (and maybe millions of other Toyota drivers), it's not exactly easy to stop driving one's car. In fact, one of the most distressing effects of this entire recall has been the way that Toyota owners have had to watch this unfolding corporate saga with no clear course of action except to sit and wait.

It's our safety that's at risk, after all. Telling us to go to our Toyota dealer for a fix that won't begin until next week (at the earliest) is just not useful.

So what are my options?

Option 1: I could walk. I live on the back roads of Douglas, Mass. It takes me 10 minutes by car just to reach a main road.

Option 2: I could take public transportation. I already use commuter rail to get to my job in Boston. It takes a half hour to drive to the station. I could walk there, but see problems in option 1.

Option 3: I could borrow my wife's car (a Toyota that's also on the recall list for floor mats). But then she couldn't commute to her job (in the opposite direction and at different hours than my commute).

Option 4: I could rent a car. That could be pricey, since it might be weeks or months before the dealership can fit me in for repairs. Could you get Toyota to foot the bill?

Option 5: I could borrow your car.

I suspect that most Toyota drivers are like me: Worried about the problem, but with no option except to keep driving – gingerly – until Toyota is ready to fix our cars and trucks.

Yours truly,

Rich Clabaugh,
Graphics artist
The Christian Science Monitor

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