Report: Footwork, not cars, at fault in many wrecks involving Toyotas
Government investigators and Toyota Motor Corp. have reportedly found that driver error, not sudden unintended acceleration, may have caused dozens of accidents involving Toyota vehicles.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that a federal analysis of data from dozens of crashes blamed on sudden acceleration suggested that some drivers who lost control of their vehicles were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to hit the brakes.
Thousands of cases of unintended acceleration are being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in conjunction with NASA.
After the Journal’s report, Bloomberg News quoted Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Mike Michels as saying “virtually all” of 2,000 cases of reported unintended acceleration the automaker has reviewed resulted from drivers stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake.
Michels said in an interview with The Boston Globe that his comment referred only to “crashes in which the driver reported that his or her foot was on the brake,” but would not say how many incidents fit that description.
NHTSA has received 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus automobiles, and Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to alter gas pedals that might stick or remove floor mats that in some cases have trapped gas pedals and made it impossible for drivers to stop.
Safety agency officials would not comment on the Journal report and said their investigation
Toyota said that its investigations into the accidents have determined “a number of explanations or causes,” but insisted that “in no case have we found electronic throttle controls to be a cause.”
Among the causes cited by Toyota are “pedal entrapment by floor mats or other objects, sticking pedals, pedal misapplication, engine idle up.” In some cases there was “no trouble found.”
Safety advocates including Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator and president of advocacy group Public Citizen, questioned driver error as a cause.
“That is totally ludicrous,” Claybrook said of Toyota’s findings. “They should be looking at the electronics in their cars, and everyone knows it.”
But attributing some sud- den acceleration cases to driver error makes sense because “it hasn’t been a summer of careening Toyotas” after public attention focused on the issue last year, said James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, a consumer auto buying website.
NHTSA said in May that Toyota vehicles involved in unintended-acceleration crashes may be linked to 89 deaths in 71 crashes since 2000.
The auto-safety agency previously investigated reports of unintended acceleration in Audi 5000 sedans and in a 1989 report concluded that human error was often the cause.
In the two decades since that report, more vehicles have been equipped with brake-override technology, designed to stop a car if the brakes and accelerator are applied simultaneously. Toyota has said it will install brakeoverride software in all new vehicles by model year 2011.
After conducting a recall of 8.5 million vehicles worldwide to modify suspect accelerator pedals, Toyota has found that ‘virtually all’ of the cases of unintended acceleration involve driver error.