According to the Chicago Tribune, since 2001 over 1,000 Toyota and Lexus owners have reported that their cars having suddenly accelerated on their own. Sometimes these runaway cars were found after crashing into trees, parked cars, brick walls, and other obstacles. In fact, some of these crashes have resulted in death with as many as 19 deaths directly related to sudden accelerations reported over the last ten years.
To date there have been no less than eight investigations into the sudden accelerations in Toyota and Lexus cars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over the last seven years. NHTSA investigated the cases from all angles, including whether there was any product defect responsible for the occurrences.
Toyota recalled around 85,000 vehicles in response to two of those inquiries, but the federal agency closed six other cases without finding a defect. Some of those cases closed by federal officials were those in which drivers said they were unable to stop runaway cars even trying to stop by using their brakes. In spite of the NHTSA closing some of these cases, fatal crashes involving Toyota cars have continued to rise.
Toyota has been criticized for the August 28, 2009 deaths of a California highway patrolman and three members of his family who died in a Lexus ES 350 that accelerated to more than 100 mph and crashed. Toyota blamed an incorrectly installed floor mat as the cause. In response to the California tragedy, the company did recall 3.8 million vehicles in September 2009 and is designing a fix in those preventing sudden accelerations caused by floor mats.
As early as next week, the NHTSA has called the issue of sudden acceleration “a very dangerous problem” and said that the remedy remains to be determined. The agency has declined interviews but did issue a statement saying that it is closely monitoring Toyota vehicles for defects and particularly the reports of the sudden acceleration or surges of engine power.
In spite of the fact that two to three hundred reported cases of sudden accelerations have been revealed throughout the United States, NHTSA officials have declined to investigate most of them. Chicago area Toyota and Lexus owners should be aware of this ongoing and serious problem that has injured or killed so many over the last ten years.
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