By on December 5, 2009

Toyota Floor Mats

A San Diego Sheriff’s Dept. investigation into the fiery crash of the Lexus that killed four has revealed that the same car experienced similar gas pedal entrapment a few days earlier, with a better outcome. A story in the San Diego Union reports that the prior driver warned the dealer of the problem, but it was not addressed:

Frank Bernard, 61, said he told a receptionist at Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon that the gas pedal on the ES 350 had been “stuck in wide open position.” He reported becoming anxious because the woman did not seem to understand what he meant and he thought it was important.

“I think the mat caused it,” Bernard said in the report, which also quotes him alerting the receptionist: “You need to tell somebody.”

Bernard tells of his experience and how he brought the Lexus to a stop:

Keeping a cooler head and taking the right steps averted disaster:

In the sheriff’s report, Bernard told investigators that he had the car, one in a fleet of loaners belonging to the Lexus dealership, on Aug. 24 and 25. He said that on the second day, while merging onto Interstate 15 from the Poway Road on-ramp, he took his foot off the gas and the car kept accelerating, to 85 mph.

Bernard pressed long and hard on the brakes and was able to pull over and slow down. He put the car into neutral, but the engine continued to race at full speed. After several failed attempts at turning off the engine, he realized the floor mat had jammed the gas pedal.

He slid his foot under the accelerator, dislodged it and had no further problems, the report says.

The key difference seems to be that Bernard undertook one single braking action, before vacuum from the master cylinder reservoir was depleted. Mark Saylor, the driver of the runaway Lexus apparently undertook repeated but incomplete braking maneuvers, and failed to engage neutral.

Saylor family attorney Tim Pestotnik said the results of the sheriff’s investigation and the revelation that the car had a previous problem have devastated the family.

He said they not only have to grapple with losing their loved ones in an instant, but now they learn the crash was avoidable.

The report also cites as a problem the lack of a key for manual shut-off of the engine, and says that the brakes failed because of “overburdened, excessive and prolonged application at high speed” and that the totality of these factors overwhelmed the driver.

“Saylor simply ran out of time and options,” the report concludes.

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76 Comments on “Prior Driver of Deadly Lexus Also Experienced Jammed Gas Pedal; Dealt With It...”


  • avatar
    littlehulkster

    This article should be entitled “Old man is a better driver than a Highway Patrolman”
    Honestly, Toyota should just leave the mats and pedals as they are so we can keep people too stupid to know what neutral does off our roads.
    It’s for the greater good, the Japanese are big on that sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal

      Pretty big talk.   So,  you’re ok with the deaths of people in the SAME car with the SAME problem only a few days previous.  How nice.
      Let’s say you are right  and the cop was stupid.    His wife was stupid, daughter was stupid, and his brother-in-law was stupid.
      His daughter is on the left:
      http://soccer.xksandiego.com/news.php?viewStory=4051
      Yeah, she deserved it.
      Nice screen name.  A homage to a D-bag who tried to keep his D-bag son out of jail for street racing and turning a friend into a vegetable.
       
       
       
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      I had the same problem once in my Subaru. The pedal got stuck on the bulky all-weather floor mats.
      Know what I did? I calmly shifted into neutral, pulled off the road, applied the brakes and got out of the car to check the problem. I then moved the floor mat down and continued on.
      I’m sorry, but if you can’t take elementary steps like that, you shouldn’t have a driver’s license. No one deserves to die here, but there are a lot of people who don’t deserve to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Fritz

      I can easily see how a tired person in a new to them car could get into trouble.  It is insane that this got past the engineers.  Peddles are a solved problem.  Stick with designs that work.  Nothing complicated about doing it right.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      You have a (rather harsh) point, however there is a strong argument to be made for a simple kill switch. In panic situations, most of today’s drivers are not sophisticated to switch to neutral or remember to hold the start switch for 3+ seconds.
       
      Although, I can see how even a “simple” kill switch could cause problems.
      Scenario:
      1) Driver is distracted by kids / cell phone / taco eating.
      2) Driver mistakenly hits the stop button and the engine shuts down.
      3) Power is lost.
      4) A crash results.
      5) Driver whines to cops / media / family / Oprah.
      6) Driver’s trial lawyer bleats.
       
      Perhaps a NHSTA approved toggle kill switch – standard for all push button start cars.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      It is easy to mouth off about survival of fittest stuff when it isn’t you or your loved ones involved. Every car should be able to be turned off easily. These newfangled push-to-start buttons are not a step forward.
       

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The thing everyone seems to be missing, is the fact that this incident didn’t happen instantly. The cops wife was on the phone with 911 for several minutes. If somebody who has specialized driver training, couldn’t figure it out in that time there is something wrong.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      ExtraO

      Let’s see…I learned how to drive (officially) 42 years ago in a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 with a 352 4bbl V-8 that was donated by a local dealer to my high school’s driver’s ed program.  One of the “routine” surprises that our instructor (one of the football coaches) would pull on us from time to time out on some country road, would be when he suddenly reached over with his foot and jammed the driver’s foot -and the accelerator- to the floor while calmly asking the petrified teenager behind the wheel, as those 250 horses tried to blow the seals out of the Fordomatic: “The car has just gone out of control, what are you going to do?”
      Pilots always have to be prepared to make an emergency landing no matter where they are -a la Captain Sullenberger ditching in the Hudson.
      There aren’t words to express the grief that that family is suffering and I don’t mean to minimize or disrespect it, but the first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about this incident was “this should have been avoidable, why didn’t he just put it in neutral and let the motor throw a rod?”

    • 0 avatar
      john.fritz

      I had the gas pedal on my ’91 Grand Marquis stick wide open after leaving the car wash in a spirited manner. Surprised the shit out of me. I popped it in neutral and turned off the engine. Although my response was automatic I could see where, had it been my wife, the outcome would’ve been entirely different. Would she have stomped the gas in that big car and gotten the pedal stuck to the floor? I doubt it but who knows. That’s why they’re called accidents. But I still wouldn’t wish the accelerator getting on anybody. It’s a bad experience.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    This article should be entitled “Old man is a better driver than a Highway Patrolman”

    Or perhaps “If you drive the car, it doesn’t drive you”.
    Yet another one of those pesky facts that negates the fantasy excuse that there are ‘unintended acceleration incidents’ that are not readily explicable or escapable.
     

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Saylor’s CHP training may have failed him. It looked like he was managing the problem by partial braking while trying to figure it out. The witnesses’ ‘brakes on fire’ may have been said brakes glowing and may have been coupled with the fluid boiling. Most cars can’t be trusted to provide repeated braking in part because lack of brake capacity and old brake fluid with water in it. When was the last time you bled your brakes?
    Moral of the story for me is jump on the brakes hard enough to stall the car, toot suite.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      My car requires a brake fluid flush every two years, as recommended by VW and paid-for by VW during the initial 4-year included “free” maintenance.
      Next such service coming up in June.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Far as I know, CHP is not driving any cars with push-button start systems, and until now, none of the vehicles commonly used for police-duty have had a spate of issues like this, so I’m not sure that dealing with such a situation would be part of the standard CHP course-work or training.

      Years ago, as a new driver, I had an issue with my father’s company car, a Ford Grand Torino Elite (candidate for CC) and the aftermarket winter floormat the fleet manager had installed.  The issue was the same as with the Toyotas, in that the lower end of the accelerator pedal became stuck under the mat – admittedly as I tried a WOT acceleration (not a terribly fast car, but when you turned the air cleaner cover upside down, it sure made an impressive noise when you did this)… Having taken apart and investigated and put back together many of his company cars for kicks, even before getting my license, I was aware of how an accelerator pedal linkage works, and was able to disengage it by hooking my toe beneath the pedal and pulling it back (just as one of the other B&B contributors did, just as the prior driver of the Flaming Death Lexus did)… 

      Point of all this is, that even though I was a new driver, I didn’t panic and with the benefit of being mechanically oriented and  familiar with the kinematics of the gas pedal I worked the problem and resolved it.

      However, not everyone is, nor should everyone have to understand kinematics or reasonable design clearances between a pedal and the mat to drive a car. This, and the fear of big lawsuits, are two key reasons engineers do failure mode effect analysis to predict such situations BeFoRe the car goes into production … so that average people, like my mom, my sisters, my auditor father (not mechanical) should never be confronted by, or die as a result of, such design failures.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Sad. Its human to make just mistake though. I don’t hold Toyota all that reponsible for this, I don’t think they are supposed to be perfect.  Glad they are changing things though. Maybe companies can get a some incentives for working on safety, not just being forced to implement it. After all its not like anyone is forcing us to buy their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      teknight

      The incentives are that people will keep on buying cars from the company, ’cause they don’t think that the company’s cars will kill them…

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      Or, maybe the government can have more strict requirements than “Do you have a pulse?” for obtaining a driver’s license, and watch as incidents like this totally disappear.
      I challenge anyone to find me a case of “unintended” acceleration from Europe, where their licensing requirements are much stricter than ours. Despite sharing more than a few models (Including the infamous Audi, which started this all) these things don’t happen there, because they are required to know how to drive a car, as opposed to just sitting around listening to music while occasionally hitting some pedals.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Or, maybe the government can have more strict requirements than “Do you have a pulse?” for obtaining a driver’s license, and watch as incidents like this totally disappear.
       
      Nevergonnahappen.com
      For all the occasional political pontification about “driving being a privilege, not a right”, the truth is that too many shite drivers vote.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Incentives are do a proper D-FMEA, and avoid the mat problem like all other OEM’s have seemed to do and avoid a big messy, expensive, brand-damaging lawsuit.  (Oh, and try to avoid the “wash, rinse, repeat” nature of the big messy brand-damaging aspect by not issuing self-serving press-statements which, in trying to straddle the truth to put a positive spin on a design fuc*-up, so much so, that the goverment feels compelled to issue a public slap-down.)

      @littlehuckster:  As an automotive engineer for 25 years, and a resident of Europe for the last 12, you’d be surprised how many people here die in silly autocrashes.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    But it’s Toyota’s fault the dealer put the wrong floor mat in the car..a floor mat that was not designed to be there…right?
     
    /Sarcasm

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      As I understand german product liability law, it would be.  Manufacturers are supposed to take into consideration reasonable customer useage profiles during their design phase, and every OEM knows there are aftermarket floor mats, thus these should be factored into the part of corporate design FMEA document dealing with driver control systems.  Secondly, under german law, the OEM is obligated to monitor events in the field (recalls, quality ppm’s, warranty work, etc.) and react to these to correct an existing dangerous situation and improve future product with the intent of preventing the problem next time.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Predictably many will comment that the driver was stupid – makes car guys feel special I guess.   We tend to like to think we’re above average when it comes to driving.   Most of us are not.
    That said, the car won’t go in neutral.   Thats always an option.    I bet a lot of people don’t know you can shift into neutral on the fly – with an automatic.
    The old fashioned method of attaching the gas pedal to the floor board wasn’t such a bad idea either.    Can’t get anything stuck under them.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      The backlash against the driver in this forum is a directly proportional to the misreporting of  these “sudden acceleration” incidents by many so-called journalists.
      There’s only so many things that can be done to make cars simple and safe. There’s room here, I think, for a discussion on how the new push button Start/Stop switches should be used. Toyota’s three-second-hold-to-stop is pretty good idea, but perhaps there’s a need for industry wide standardization (hello NHSTA  – you may want to look into this when you’re done applying visibility-destroying rollover standards for drunks in SUVs  playing Dale Jr on onramps) .
      The problem with this story is the conspiracy wack-jobs in the press only see the big, evil corporation.

  • avatar
    Damage

    This was bound to happen what with rubber floor mats thick as semi-tire treads. Where will this trend end, so we can go back to regular floor mats that aren’t designed to hold 5 gallons of salty slush and a spilled latte?
    And here’s another vote for knowing how to handle a stuck gas pedal. I thought it was basic knowledge. There’s no excuse for not knowing what neutral is or how to use it.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      My experience with this, nearly 30 years ago (written about elsewhere on this page), stemmed from Rubbermaid mats which were nearly as thin as the leather sole on Adlai Stevenson’s shoe.  http://www.flintjournal.com/125/paper/galleries/history/source/14.html

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Isn’t everyone’s first reaction to a ‘stuck’ throttle to stick your foot behind the damn thing and try to pull the pedal back? 

    Isn’t it?

    And as to this being part of some specialized skill set, I distinctly remembering thinking ‘ well, duh’ when I saw the question on a driving test like 20 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Fritz

      Yeah, that is what I would have done.  But when you are merging onto an interstate the traffic might distract enough that the idea doesn’t come until too late.
      Look, I hate automatics.  This would never have happened with a standard.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I took a look in a Prius manual on how to shut off the power in an emergency. You have to hold down the power button for 3 seconds. Same as my cell phone and some of my other electronics. The Lexus is probably the same. However, shifting to neutral is probably the best option. The power button takes time and turning off the car with a key in a panic might result in locking the steering column.

    I had a stuck throttle once, but it was so long ago I can’t remember what I did. I think it was the “pull the pedal back” method with my foot. It was intuitive and almost a reflex.  With the exception of the Prius, everything I currently have has a manual so it’s just a matter of pushing in the clutch. If the throttle on the Prius were to get stuck, I’m not sure I’d even notice!

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      With the rise of ECU’s and key fobs, and EPAS electric steering assist, steering column locks are beginning to go the way of buggy whips … but, as often seems the case, something new has arrived to take the place of a locked column in such a situation … if there is a situation of full power-off, with a car in motion, and if the software is not properly designed to ensure that the EPAS remains switched on and providing assist, then depending on the design of the assist mechanism, anything can happen including extremely heavy steering up to the inability to turn the wheel at all.

      The discussion of the kill-switch is a non-starter … besides proper remedies for the gas pedal, better labelling of the start/stop button (clearly indicating the 3s hold time), or a redesign of the s/w logic behind the button allowing rapid stabbing motions applied to the button to depending on the situation, to limit throttle position, but to maintain other vital functions i.e.e.g. lighting, steering, brake-assist, and Quadraphonic Stereo output.

  • avatar
    kkt

    Another good reason for driving a manual transmission:  shifting to neutral is the obvious response to the engine revving uncontrollably high.
    That said, interference between the floor mat and the accelerator has been a known problem for a long time.  On our late 1998 Civic we had a safety recall that consisted of installing a peg in the floorboard to hold the floormat in place.  I’m really surprised Lexus (if this was a standard equipment floormat) and the dealer didn’t take it more seriously.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I had that problem on a pickup once. But it was still in park. I just turned it off, but not after being scared and surprise. I thought the thing was going to explode. It did sound nice though.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      I had sudden-decelleration once – at night on a busy road.
      I had just swapped a battery in an old Protege and I didn’t tighten the wires to a terminal properly. Evidently, when the wires come off the Protege’s battery terminals, EVERYTHING shuts down – lights, power, engine. Then, when while trying to steer off the road, the steering LOCKS.
      That was a soil the underwear moment. But it worked out (lucky me).

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    I hear Bugatti Veyrons are experiencing a glitch where the car accelerates on its own to 250 mph, puts the windows down and spits out the driver’s head.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Okay, enough of the “well, if it was a manual transmission…” replies.

    This was a loaner car at a dealership. While I agree that all drivers should know how to drive a manual (as I do) it’s an unrealistic option for a loaner, especially when you also have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of people with disabilities require an automatic as a “reasonable accomodation.”

    Furthermore, do you want to be the service advisor who hands the keys to a manual transmission equipped loaner to my 83-year-old, LS460 driving mother-in-law?

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      At the VW dealer I used to work at there was a Passat and Golf loaner, both with manual transmissions. I’m just saying, it can be done.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      You’re correct, but only if a significant percentage of the cars sold at that dealership are equipped with manual transmissions (as is the case with VWs and Porsches), but that’s definitely not the case with Lexus.

      But then again, in most situations where you’re giving out a “free” car for someone to drive, can be done and should be done are two totally different things. I definitely wouldn’t want to buy a former “courtesy car” (as they’re called here) with a manual, unless I actually witnessed the service department installing a new clutch!

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      I see your point.  However, if the driver usually drove manual transmission cars, he’d be more likely to think of  shifting to neutral when the accelerator was misbehaving, rather than just standing on the brake until it gave out.
      What is with push-button start cars needing you to hold the button for three seconds to turn it off?  That sounds like a really, really bad idea.  If they can’t find dash room for two buttons, maybe they should just use the key to start.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Heavy rubber slush mats are common in Canada. They are typically placed over the carpet mats that come with many cars creating a double thickness.
    A slush mat sliding forward and stopping the accelerator pedal from returning to idle is not uncommon. The usual solution is to hook a toe under the pedal and return it to idle.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The key difference seems to be that Bernard undertook one single braking action, before vacuum from the master cylinder reservoir was depleted.
     
    This has been said several times: if you stomp on the brake in any car, hard and once, you can stop it.  Most people, even police officers, don’t stomp on the brake hard enough, or pump/feather it.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Bernard pressed long and hard on the brakes and was able to pull over and slow down. He put the car into neutral, but the engine continued to race at full speed.

    I don’t see how this can happen. I would expect it rev up to the redline and the fuel should cut out. I know by experience that my automatic 4Runner has a fuel cutoff at redline,  so I would assume this is common all all cars now, automatic or manual.

  • avatar
    VerbalKint

    Did I miss something?  How did Bernard fail in several attempts to shut off the engine??

    • 0 avatar
      Joe ShpoilShport

      Don’t quote me on this (just trying to help) but I beleive the vehicle was equipped with a start button.  It requires a 3 second push and hold to shut off the engine.  I belive the button was pushed repeatedly but not pushed and held.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      You’re correct.

      Unfortunately, start/stop buttons are still relatively unfamiliar to most drivers, particularly those who drive older vehicles and/or are not car nuts like us.

  • avatar
    skaro

    This happened to me in my 06 Tacoma. Reg cab, 4×4 4cyl 5speed.
    I put in aftermarket “Husky” mats. Installed them properly, hooked in. But still, every now and then, it would catch the gas pedal and I would get a rev.
     
    My first action was clutch in. Then neutral. Then foot behind pedal to get it unstuck.
     
    After 3 or 4 times, I cut out part of the mat and never hand the prob. again.
     
    Then someone in a brand new <2K Yaris rear ended me at ~45 mph. Totalled my taco.
     
    I didn’t remember to ask if their gas pedal was stuck…

  • avatar
    mtypex

    “The old fashioned method of attaching the gas pedal to the floor board wasn’t such a bad idea either.    Can’t get anything stuck under them.”
    Actually, you can, which is why brake pedals aren’t attached that way anymore.
    What we have here is a basic engineering/design oversight flaw, as well as some people that should know what to do (police officers) in these situations that do not know.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark out West

      Uh, think.  Getting something stuck behind a BRAKE pedal prevent the car from STOPPING.  Getting something  stuck behind a floor-hinged accelerator prevents the car from GOING. Big difference.  

      BMW’s used floor-hinged accelerators for years for just this reason – safety.  They hang their brake pedals from a firewall-mounted pivot.

  • avatar
    vww12

    “before vacuum from the master cylinder reservoir was depleted”
    I confess I was not aware one can run out of vacuum, at least not in a modern passenger car.  I admit ignorance.
    Can someone please tell how many seconds, or minutes, or pedal depressions, or however it is measured, of “vacuum” one usually has before running out of brake power?  Thanks in advance.

    • 0 avatar
      Rusnak_322

      at full throttle, the car is not pulling a vacuum, hence the vacuum booster bottles (they store a vacuum). I don’t have a clue how much that stored vacuum will last, but if you are pumping the brakes, it won’t last long. I had a 55 chevy with vacuum windshield wipers that would momentarily freeze when I stepped on the gas.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      There is probably enough vacuum for applying the brakes perhaps 3 times, but the maximum amount of assist will be less every time. In fact, you can try it on your own car. Next time you park it and shut down the engine (which removes the vacuum source), press the brake pedal and release it. After a couple or three brake applications, you will feel the brake pedal get really hard. However many brake applications it took to get to that point, that’s how many tries you have.

    • 0 avatar
      vww12

      Thanks Rusnak and Brian.  Will try the experiment.
      Interesting that at WOT one actually gets less braking “reserve.”  Didn’t know that.

  • avatar
    Rusnak_322

    only a few years ago, NASCAR had a problem with sticking throttles on their race cars. They mandated a kill switch on the steering wheel for all cars.
    These are drivers paid tens of millions of dollars to drive these cars, and yet even they couldn’t just put the clutch in and coast.
     

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Excellent point.

      People are quick to blame this on stupid drivers – and I’m NOT suggesting that there are no bad drivers out there.

      But let’s be realistic. In a panic situation, one tends to focus on slowing the car and steering out of danger, NOT looking for a button to press for three seconds, or taking a hand off of the steering wheel to move a lever into neutral.

      Up until now, a stuck accelerator pedal was an extremely rare event, and probably still is. To expect human beings to perform perfectly in every unfamiliar situation is not only judgmental, it smacks of total ignorance of cognitive theory.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      +1 Buzzdog.

    • 0 avatar
      Bruce from DC

      +2 BuzzDog.  And consider that some pretty fast cars are now equipped with pushbutton start, e.g. BMW 135i, which hits 60 mph in 5 seconds or less.  So imagine yourself driving one of these rocketships, very quickly accelerating to a speed faster than the surrounding traffic.  I would image you would be very busy just trying not to run into the back of someone,and/or negotiate an oncoming curve.  So, while doing all this, you’re really going to be feeling around trying to unhook a stuck gas pedal?  Or, let’s see, you’re going to be holding in the “start” button for 3 seconds, while your car is approaching 80 mph?  (Yeah, I know, BMW doesn’t use suspended gas pedals; but my point is the same for some other hot rod that does, including Lexus).
      An emergency kill switch that works instantly just might be a good idea.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    A kill switch will save  an engine from  blowing up. De-clutching  wouldnt.  Killing  the  ignition with the engine in gear, is a better option.  On  a  bug  carburator, if  the roll pin limiting  the  auto choke  fell out, the fast idle cam  would  flip over and  jam the linkage WOT.   Use  to happen to me all the  time .  One  sleety New Years Eve,  I  just  feathered the  engine  with the key and  drove  home using  the  key as  a throttle  in  reverse.   The carb had  a solenoid controlled  gas  feed, so I  didnt worry  about blowing  up  the exhaust.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that all new cars have built-in electronic rev limiters (once a car has ECFI and ECS, this electronic rev limiter is free to implement) … it is electronically impossible to rev the engine over the safe limit … and I’m going to further increase my risk by claiming that all automatic transmissions have electronic control software which prevents downshifting if it will result in the engine exceeding the rpm limit … therefore, a kill switch will not save an engine from blowing up, it will just keep it from running at the redline (which if properly determined, will not result in the engine, nor any of the FEAD-mounted components, from catastrophically failing.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    MBella wrote: The thing everyone seems to be missing, is the fact that this incident didn’t happen instantly. The cops wife was on the phone with 911 for several minutes. If somebody who has specialized driver training, couldn’t figure it out in that time there is something wrong.
     
    I absolutely agree – but the average driver in the US of A is going to be toast should the accelerator stick.
     
    I’ve had this happen on a crowded freeway with a set of dual Webers stuck at WOT.  It was not fun.  Luckily it was a 4 speed manual and the car had a key ignition.  Also, it was my own car.
     
    The trooper driving the Lexus was obviously unfamiliar with its operation.  Given the amount of time that transpired, there was plenty of opportunity to shift into neutral or at the very least downshift the tranny into L1.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    But let’s be realistic. In a panic situation, one tends to focus on slowing the car and steering out of danger, NOT looking for a button to press for three seconds, or taking a hand off of the steering wheel to move a lever into neutral.

    If something as minor as a throttle hanging up is now defined as a “panic situation” I truly hope that person never has a grease fire on their stove – the house will burn down because they don’t have the presence of mind to grab a lid. 
     
    Up until now, a stuck accelerator pedal was an extremely rare event, and probably still is. To expect human beings to perform perfectly in every unfamiliar situation is not only judgmental, it smacks of total ignorance of cognitive theory.
    Any data to support that theory? Postulating that somehow the frequency of an outcome dictates a particular causality is not valid logic. To expect human beings to have a basic idea of how to operate a device, seems awfully reasonable. Interestingly enough, seems to be a fair amount of anecdotal data to suggest that it happens, and most people don’t panic. 

    @Andy D,

    Done like a true car guy. 
     

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      There’s tons of data to support that people tend to react more quickly in expected, familiar circumstances. Where would you like me to begin?

      The point I’m making is that, to the typical driver (and most of us on this forum are not typical), there are two very unfamiliar circumstances at play in this scenario: A throttle sticking wide open (never has happened to me in 30 years of driving) and the presence of start/stop buttons instead of a turnkey ignition switch.

      I’m just like many, in that I’m sick and tired of the teenaged mentality that posts messages inferring that this family somehow deserved to die because of unfamiliarity with every possible scenario with every possible variable of controls that are present in modern vehicles. Enough said.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      If something as minor as a throttle hanging up is now defined as a “panic situation” I truly hope that person never has a grease fire on their stove – the house will burn down because they don’t have the presence of mind to grab a lid. 

      +1. I remember “brake failure” questions from tests in my 1980’s high school driver ed class. Brake failure wasn’t uncommon in 70’s rust buckets. Neutral, slow, look for a safe landing, and then slam it into park.

      Admittedly, a stuck throttle is a bit more serious, but have we regressed this far???

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    As much as I would like to say unskilled drivers are the problem and not Toyota, there are a lot of unskilled drivers. My mother lined the footwells of her Camry with heavy-duty plastic sheeting. For a while when I drove her car, I noticed the accelerator pedal would catch under one of the ‘corners’ and not return all the way. I fixed that with a pair of scissors. She’s as car illiterate as they come; she was always mystified by the funny clock that I explained was the tachometer. I don’t think she would be able to shift into neutral or even shut off the ignition with the key if her car got stuck in WOT. It would be difficult for me to decide that she shouldn’t be on the road, since accidental acceleration is a very rare occurrence. Toyota adding the brake/throttle override on AT Camrys would be a good idea, since they are appliances.

  • avatar

    Years ago I was test driving a customer’s Prelude.  Hit a bump and noticed that all of the sudden the veh was accelerating on it’s own.  I was exiting the freeway at the time so 1st I “romped” on the brakes, and a split second later thought to put the trans in neutral.  Pulled to the stop with the engine bouncing off the rev limiter and started kicking up around the accel pedal which freed it and dropped the engine back to idle.  Limped the car back to the shop and crawled under to find an aftermarket alarm box the was just wedged up under the dash above the pedal, the bump dislodged it and it dropped and bound-up the pedal assy.  

    Sad situation for sure, but sounds like the CHP officer had plenty of time to reason how to disconnect the engine from the rest of the drivetrain, which would have allowed him to slow/stop the car safely.  

    Sounds to me like that dealer has a hell of a lawsuit on their hands.      

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    @ Buzzdog:
    I’m just like many, in that I’m sick and tired of the teenaged mentality that posts messages inferring that this family somehow deserved to die because of unfamiliarity with every possible scenario with every possible variable of controls that are present in modern vehicles. Enough said.

    Please… Thinking that drivers should be held accountable/responsible is NOT equivalent to thinking that the family deserved to die.

    The question is, “How do we stop this from happening?”
    An easier kill switch? Changes in vehicle software that stop uncontrolled revving? Floor mat sensors?!?

    These solutions may sound reasonable.  But there are often unintended consequences. A too easy a kill switch can lead to accidental shut downs. More complex software means more bugs – not to mention enticing the tuner crowd to more hacking  and re-flashing.
    When asking these questions, you get back to a central point: What should we expect of drivers?

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      You’re absolutely correct; your line of rational thinking is NOT what I was pointing at.

      It’s the ones that stick a Darwinian argument into the scenario, as though this accident was natural selection at work.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I rather think that there is a place for the natural selection thing in this argument, but it is on the wrong side of the equation; it belongs on the side of the body corporate.

      If the Burke/Santayana quote can be modified to:  “Those who cannot learn from the past mistakes of themselves or others are condemmed to repeat them.”  Then this is where economic natural selection comes in, a company that ignores the above quote does so at its own peril, and if it persists doing so long enough it will suffer lawsuits, fines, customer and employee defection, loss of economic vitality, insolvency, and finally die**. 

      ** Caveat:  Unless they are GM or Chrysler.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    There’s tons of data to support that people tend to react more quickly in expected, familiar circumstances. Where would you like me to begin?

    True. And certainly applicable in a scenario where a truckload of ball bearings appears on the roadway over the crest of a hill.  Sorry, no convincing me that there is anything that would preclude an average Joe/Jane from saying “pedal stuck, pull it up”.  

     The point I’m making is that, to the typical driver (and most of us on this forum are not typical), there are two very unfamiliar circumstances at play in this scenario: A throttle sticking wide open (never has happened to me in 30 years of driving) and the presence of start/stop buttons instead of a turnkey ignition switch.

    Once again, if we have now committed to the theory that the average person is too stupid to perform the simply logical feat of lifting the pedal, we have a real problem in our society.
    No one here has suggested the family deserved to die for the driver’s incompetance. No one. What has been said ever so clearly is that if you don’t have the most rudimentary understanding of how to drive, then you probably shouldn’t be.
    If humanity were as generally inept as you imply, we’d have gone extinct thousands of years ago. Though, we may end up with Dumbocracy if people continue down the happy road of cluelessness…

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      For the final time, I am NOT arguing against responsibility and I am NOT implying that humanity is generally inept! Why you made that assumption, I have no idea; in fact, I’m probably more in alignment with you than not over the need to NOT adopt a knee-jerk response to this issue.

      I’m merely responding to the asshats who started down the path that this family deserved to die, and you’re incorrect in your statement that “No one here has suggested that the family deserved to die for the driver’s incompetance [sic].” Read the comments carefully on both this article and the one that appeared last week on this topic, and you’ll see that at least one person suggested a Darwinian relationship between this accident and the cleansing of stupidity from the gene pool.

      TTAC is fine for discussing auto issues, but when people get plain hateful it’s just, well, stupid. This is particularly true in light of the fact that four people died, we need to get past whose “fault” it is and look at how we can reasonably prevent it from happening again. We can’t make things 100% safe, but if it’s something as simple as shortening a pedal or putting in an extra pivot, well then do it and quit talking about how stupid the driver was.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    I just reread all the responses and I did not find anyone saying the family deserved to die. There are some Darwinian references, but in common usage, Darwinism does not require death or extinction. 

    This is particularly true in light of the fact that four people died, we need to get past whose “fault” it is and look at how we can reasonably prevent it from happening again. We can’t make things 100% safe, but if it’s something as simple as shortening a pedal or putting in an extra pivot, well then do it and quit talking about how stupid the driver was.

    Sure, there is a workaround for the floormats. What’s the workaround for a foot planted firmly on the accelerator pedal? You are correct in the assumption that we cannot make anything 100% safe, but the continuing work to “idiot proof” everything from swingsets to coffee is not a positive trend. Which is ultimately counterproductive.
    The problem is, that there is still the phantom menace of ‘unintended acceleration’. Which has never been proven to be anything but operator error. Until one positively identifies the causality, one cannot effect a diagnosis, or a change.
    As long as we perpetuate the mythology that UI exists and is a rampant uncontrolled killer, we will have these arguments. And yes, the reactive position will sometimes be as over the top as the premise. Sorry, heat/kitchen, all that.

    “Fix the problem, not the blame” is a wonderful management tool. Not so applicable when people might die.
    I don’t find that having the driver rely on the manufacturer for common sense to be a reliable safeguard to my well-being.

     

  • avatar
    George B

    Imagine the frustration of the 1st driver Frank Bernard.  He attempted to report the problem at the dealership, but got nowhere talking to the receptionist.  I the same situation I might be tempted to put the floor mats in the trunk with a note, but unless the note was in both Spanish and English, not sure if it would be understood.
     
    Not sure, but I suspect the 2nd driver Saylor accidentially put the shift lever in the manual upshift position when he was trying to shift it into neutral.  Doubt panic from the passengers was helping the situation.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    This seems like the worst news Toyota, and especially its attorney, could fear to hear. A single car produced two IE incidents with different drivers. Considering how rare runaway car incidents are, how can two strike the same car  within days without it being the vehicle’s fault? That’s very damning evidence that hasn’t existed before in previous cases, to my limited knowledge.
    I look at the photo and wonder why modern gas pedals hang low enough to come anywhere near the floor mats. My point of contact with the go pedal varies from the ball of my foot to the toes, all six inches or more above the floor. So you could trim three inches from my gas pedal and I’d never notice. Maybe I should do it myself, just in case. The answer to this problem might be as simple as this, or more complex.
    A few makers are offering adjustable pedal assemblies. That’s a nice innovation, improving comfort  and safety alike. Now the trick will be to offer adjustments that won’t allow users to make improper settings that could lead to pedal/mat entrapment.

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      On the contrary, if I were Toyota, I’d be more happy to hear that these things happened to the same exact vehicle, rather than Mr. Bernard reporting that the same thing happened on a different vehicle.   It’s definitely the vehicle’s fault, but that was already proven (considering the floor mat is part of the vehicle).
       
      It’s a shame that Mr. Bernard didn’t push farther to talk to the service manager or someone else if he was frustrated that the secretary didn’t ‘get it’.

    • 0 avatar
      poltergeist

      And this particular incident is entirely the dealer’s fault, not Toyota’s, as apparently the dealer installed floor mats in the car from a different model that were not designed for it. 

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    It’s inevitable that some owners will install non-OEM floor mats, or a new mat on top of an old one. I confess to doing both at one tine or another, with no ill effects. Traditionally, this has been one car part/accessory, like wiper blades and stereos, that’s not a closed system of manufacturer-only parts. There’s really no reason to blame the user here, unless you’re one of those corporate fanboys who believes no auto manufacturer is to blame for anything, anytime.
    I look at the photo above, which I assume is from the car model in question. The pedal hangs so low that it looks like it’s hinged at the bottom, not hung from the top. And again I ask– why?

    • 0 avatar
      poltergeist

      How can someone blame the manufacturer when someone modifies the car with incorrect or aftermarket parts?  I see aftermarket floor mats hooked/impeding the travel of the accel. pedal on Hondas all the time, fwiw the picture at the top of the article doesn’t look much different than most Honda pedals as far as height from the floor .  

  • avatar
    vegasgti

    Many years ago I had an ’83 GTI with an after-market cruise control installed by Sears. I’d been using the CC without any problems for more than a year.  

    I’d just gotten off the fwy, had been using the CC, driving down Beach Blvd. in Anaheim, when all of a sudden the pedal went to the floor. Being an un-educated (8th grade) big rig trucker, I panicked! I’d never been advised as to what to do in this kind of a situation. I’d been driving since 1957. However, COMMON SENSE came to the rescue…

    I hit the clutch, put the tranny in neutral, pulled over to the curb, turned off the ignition, set the handbrake, then I removed the fuse from the CC unit. I went to Sears, told them of the situation, they removed the CC unit & refunded all my money. 

    I’ve been using Velcro on floormats for years, never a problem!

     


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