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Toyota May Not Be Entirely At Fault in Unintended Acceleration

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On: Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 9:50AM | By: Chris Weiss

Toyota May Not Be Entirely At Fault in Unintended Acceleration

The United States Department of Transportation has been rigorously analyzing paperwork and equipment relating to Toyota's unintended accleration problems, issues that have caused the recall of more than eight million vehicles, beginning last year. While the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA) has already slapped Toyota with a $16.4 million fine, and may still add more fines to that total, a recent report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that the agency is finding that Toyota is not the only party to blame in the acceleration woes. In at least a portion of the complaints, driver error has been found to be the cause of the issue.

In an intensive analysis of dozens of vehicle data recorders taken from Toyota models involved in sudden acceleration incidents, the NHTSA has found that many of them recorded the throttle being fully open and the brakes being disengaged at the time of crashing. This shows that the drivers involved were punching the accelerator, but not stepping on the brakes at all.

The problem of sudden acceleration, which has been linked to both floor mats and defective, sticking accelerator pedals in individual recalls, has been that cars reportedly accelerated even when the brakes were pressed. However, in these newly uncovered incidents, it would appear that the drivers mistakenly hit the accelerator rather than the brakes.

Driver error has also been cited as the cause of some high profile acceleration incidents, including one in New York and one in the San Diego area.

It is not known exactly how many vehicle recorders the NHTSA has reviewed or what percentage of that total indicate driver error as being the cause of crashing. The agency has received more than 3,000 complaints about problematic acceleration in Toyota vehicles. NHTSA officials intend to complete a further study with NASA and will not comment on their findings until that is completed. It's expected to be months before the full study is complete.

The NHTSA has found evidence that Toyota vehicles had concrete problems, namely sticking pedals and invasive floor mats. However, there has been no evidence uncovered of problems with vehicle electronic throttle control systems, which have been a suggested cause by some analysts. Toyota officials who have learned unofficial details of the NHTSA's results indicate that they mirror the results of Toyota's in-house testing.

Beginning in September of 2009, Toyota recalled over eight million Lexus and Toyota vehicles in an unprecedented surge of individual recalls that has affected nearly a dozen models. The initial recall, which involved 3.8 million vehicles, cited floor mats that interfered with the accelerator pedals as the cause of sudden acceleration. Later recalls beginning in January involved faulty pedals.

The U.S. government has been investigating the acceleration incidents and Toyota's response since the winter. In May, the NHTSA fined Toyota $16.4 million, the maximum allowed by U.S. law, for a delayed response in reporting unintended acceleration problems. More fines may be come out of the continued investigation and today's report certainly doesn't indicate that Toyota bears no fault in the issues.

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