NHTSA Says Driver Error Caused Toyota Acceleration Accidents

July 14th, 2010

Toyota Prius sudden acceleration

Someone owes Toyota an apology.

Actually, the Federal Government, U.S. media outlets and James Sikes (remember the runaway Prius?) should be the first to grovel for forgiveness from the world’s largest automaker. 

After receiving thousands of reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation has concluded that, get ready for this, driver error was actually at fault.

According to The Wall Street Journal, investigators who analyzed data recorders from Toyota vehicles found that at the time of these “sudden acceleration” crashes, the throttles were wide open, and the brakes were not depressed. That means, to put it bluntly, the sudden acceleration was caused by a sudden lead foot and not faulty electronics.

Most likely, drivers accidentally stepped on the gas when they meant to apply the brake. Hardly seems worthy of Congressional hearings.

The WSJ also reports that U.S. Transportation Department officials have stated that they have not found any electronic throttle problems in any Toyota vehicles. 

The story says,

Daniel Smith, NHTSA’s associate administrator for enforcement, told a panel of the National Academy of Sciences last month that the agency’s sudden-acceleration probe had yet to find any car defects beyond those identified by the company: pedals entrapped by floor mats, and “sticky” accelerator pedals that are slow to return to idle.

After recalling eight million vehicles and suffering incredible damage to its image during this fiasco, not to mention paying millions of dollars in NHTSA fines, Toyota remains vigilant in not placing any of the blame on its customers.

Looking at the evidence so far, though, there’s really nowhere else it should fall.

So Toyota may not be at fault in the sudden acceleration cases. Does that change your perception of the company and how it has handled this crisis?

-tgriffith

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  1. randy
    July 15th, 2010 at 06:43 | #1

    This is eerily similar to Audi’s sudden acceleration problems a few decades back. In the Audi case, it was determined that the gas and brake pedals were in unusual positions compared to most cars, and that the majority of victims were “second drivers” of the vehicles.

    Pedal translation can happen in just about any car and I remember seeing my boss fire across the parking lot in a Chevy Caprice and hit the wall of our building in such an incident. It goes to show you how powerful our minds can be under the belief that we are pressing the brake instead of the gas.

    The safety feature that kills the throttle when both brake and throttle are pressed at the same time wouldn’t help in this case because the brake is never pressed. Turning the key off in a keyless car might also not be an option. Drivers need to be trained to handle emergencies like this as part of driver training and adults need to be required to have “refresher” driver training that includes some basic emergency training. Getting the driver to briefly “lift the feet” in a runaway is a good technique.

    And Toyota isn’t off the hook, either. As with the Audi case, this is likely influenced by unusual pedal placement, which can affect multiple vehicle models if pedal assemblies are used in a number of cars.

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