NHTSA Blames Driver Error For Toyota Unintended Acceleration

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

People “familiar with the findings” of NHTSA’s investigation into unintended acceleration in Toyotas tell the WSJ [sub] that after studying “dozens” of black boxes, the DOT has

found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged… The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

Really? Could it be true? It wasn’t cosmic rays or a ghost in the machine causing vehicles to run completely out of control? We’re shocked. Shocked, we tell you.

The WSJ notes that this doesn’t exonerate Toyota from issues involving sticky pedals or floormat entrapment, both of which were subject to recalls. However:

The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involve a sample of reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing.

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government.

The findings are consistent with a 1989 government-sponsored study that blamed similar driver mistakes for a rash of sudden-acceleration reports involving Audi 5000 sedans.

NHTSA admits that is has yet to find any sign of a problem with Toyota’s electronic throttle control system, the main system targeted by Sean Kane, and congressional hearings. A more in-depth study, in partnership with NASA, is still underway.

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  • Cmcmail Cmcmail on Jul 14, 2010

    When 30% of the "runaways" were equipped with standard transmissions, it was obvious that is was driver error. Unless there were a lot of unreported clutch failures. I bet it was people with winter boots in regions where the don't usually need them.There were a lot of first timers in snow this year. I drive a Tacoma manual trans. with snow boots on it can be kinda tight down there, could see it being confusing in a panic (snow). Modern brakes are plenty strong to stop a vehicle even with the gas pedal on floor.It is lucky we really don't count on the government for real safety advice, Bloggers get it first anyway.

  • Potemkin Potemkin on Jul 14, 2010

    Can your brakes hold back a fully depressed accelerator. I tried a test with my pick up. I sped up to 55 mph and then I stood on the gas and brake at the same time. I slowed down slightly but then the brakes started to fade. Your brakes will hold your car against the engine from a standing start but get it rolling at highway speed and it's a different story.

  • Teeasal Teeasal on Jul 16, 2010

    Thank you all Toyota haters/bashers/blamers. Thank you, thank you very much! Without your illogical yet persistant efforts I wouldn't be able to get $7000 discount for my new Toyota purchase. Thanks again from the bottom of my heart! For those who are going to congratulate me for commiting this potentially suicidal purchase, let me tell you that after the Found-On-Road-Dead episode 15 years ago with my superiorly engineered domestic car breaking a crankshaft right in the middle of an 80 mph highway drive, nothing scares me anymore. I can assure you that it was NOT due to driver (me) incompetence. For those who wonder how I lived through such horrible incidence without a scratch, I managed to put the car in neutral immediately, (and it did NOT flip over like the (in)famous Prius owner feared) turned on the emergency lights and coasted it to the shoulder three lanes across, without causing a ten car pile-up, or even a dent in the bumper (not that the undamaged bumper, heck, the whole undamaged car body fetched me anything more than $100 from the car wrecker.)

  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Jul 18, 2010

    Even if the black boxes are working correctly the only data that they can pick up is pedal position. They can't tell whether the pedal is stuck or being depressed by a floor mat, they only know that the pedal was depressed. That being said, people do need to use common sense when installing floor mats.