The Truth About Toyota’s Sudden Unexplained Acceleration
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The Truth About Toyota’s Sudden Unexplained Acceleration

Wednesday, March 10, 2010By Richard Alexander

The wrongful deaths and severe personal injuries caused by Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUA) in Toyota cars and trucks have become daily news stories, as have Toyota’s recall announcements.For Toyota owners, trying to make sense of these SUA reports and vehicle recalls can be very confusing, largely because Toyota’s spokespeople rarely tell the whole truth and because government officials refuse to act forcefully enough to protect American drivers and passengers.

At first, Toyota’s officials said that SUA was impossible. Then they blamed driver error. Then, as the reports became more numerous, Toyota’s executives shifted the blame to defective floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals, but automotive experts have said that none of those factors could be responsible for the thousands of reports of Toyota SUA.

The result is that Toyota owners are confused, and they’re still driving cars and trucks that may put them and everyone else on the road in grave danger.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, one fact has become absolutely clear: Toyota has knowingly been selling cars and trucks that may suddenly accelerate to 80 or 100 MPH and leave the driver with no ability to stop the speeding machine. In some cases, Toyotas backing out of driveways accelerated so rapidly that the drivers lost control, and the resulting crashes turned the cars into total losses.

Toyota’s guilt is clear, but the full truth about these SUA incidents is hard to find. The only way to learn what’s really happening is to turn to a reliable source of information that has no connections to Toyota or to the company’s friends in high government offices. Safety Research & Strategies is an organization that fits that description.

Safety Research & Strategies (SRS) is a completely independent organization that tracks safety issues in the automotive industry, and on February 5 SRS released a comprehensive report entitled Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration. The report is the result of an extensive study of Toyota defects and coverups, and it faults both Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for putting Americans at risk.

NHTSA is the government agency responsible for keeping American motorists safe, and the agency lists its mission as: Save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes.

To achieve those goals, NHTSA must always put the safety of everyone on the road ahead of the profits of automakers. However, according to the SRS report, the NHTSA has been much too friendly and lenient in its investigations of its good friends at Toyota.

Neither Toyota nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified all of the causes of SUA in Toyota and Lexus model vehicles, nor has the automaker implemented remedies that address the types of complaints consumers are reporting.”

That’s the scary conclusion that SRS reached after examining reports of Toyota SUA that go back to 1999 and after analyzing Toyota’s handling of its deadly problems. Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration is very thorough, and these are some of its findings:

• Since 1999, at least 2,262 Toyota and Lexus owners have reported that their vehicles have accelerated suddenly and without explanation. These incidents have resulted in 815 crashes, 341 personal injuries, and 19 wrongful deaths.

• Of the 2,262 complaints, about half are from drivers of cars and trucks that have not been recalled.

• Toyota’s SUA problems span many years, many makes, and many models.

• Toyota has not accepted its responsibility for manufacturing and selling vehicles that have design flaws that can contribute to SUA. Toyota has insisted that its system cannot fail and has blamed drivers and suppliers.

• Toyota’s past recalls have been ineffective. Drivers of recalled vehicles, who have applied the remedy, still experience SUA.

• The Camry is the subject of many SUA complaints, but the NHTSA has been negligent in investigating them. One example is a 2003 incident in Pasadena that occurred while a woman was slowly backing her Camry out of her driveway, with her foot on the brake. The car rocketed down the driveway, hit a palm tree, then surged forward. The crash was so violent that the car was a total loss, but the NHTSA never investigated.

A similar Camry/driveway incident occurred in Phoenix in 2005, and the NHTSA received at least 168 more reports of similar incidents. After an incomplete investigation, the NHTSA said that it found nothing wrong with the cars.

Toyota, meanwhile, flatly rejected the concept of unintended acceleration with this statement:

“With regard to allegations of unintended acceleration, Toyota does not believe that uncontrollable acceleration can occur without the driver applying the accelerator pedal because of the several detection systems described above. If an abnormal condition occurs, such as the ETC sending the signal to the throttle body to open the throttle without applying the accelerator pedal due to a failure of a component or a malfunction of the system, or if the throttle simply were to open on its own, the system goes into failsafe mode.

“In addition, the brake system and the ETC system are mechanically separated and work independently of each other. Therefore, even if the ETC system fails, the brake system still works as designed and unintended acceleration cannot occur. Furthermore, brake systems that fail mechanically leave evidence of their failure after the occurrence and do not return to normal operating conditions by themselves.”

Toyota’s strategy of denial and blaming the victims continued for many years, and the NHTSA never took its job of protecting the American driving public seriously enough. The NHTSA would receive complaints about defective vehicles and do incomplete investigations. Then Toyota would release statements that denied responsibility for the problems that drivers experienced. It was the classic case of “One lies and the other swears by it.”

That strategy worked for a long time, but it’s not working any more. The sheer number of SUA complaints and highly publicized incidents such as the crash of an out-of-control Lexus in San Diego that caused 4 wrongful deaths has brought more attention than even Toyota’s deep pockets and friends in high places can cover up.

Safety Research & Strategies has done an important public service by compiling this report. The personal injury attorneys at our firm have been aware of Toyota’s reckless behavior for many years, and this report confirms what we’ve been saying. Toyota has knowingly sold defective cars and trucks in its blind pursuit of profits. The truth about Toyota SUA is that it does happen and it does cause injuries and deaths.

If you or someone you love has suffered because of Toyota’s decision to sell dangerous vehicles, contact us. Learn if legal action can compensate you for your suffering.

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