Drivers at Fault in Most 'Runaway' Toyota Crashes Study Says

A review of data recorders from 58 Toyotas involved in crashes where drivers said their cars had sped out of control showed the brakes were not applied at all in 35 cases, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found.

Drivers were at fault for failing to brake in most of the cases of "runaway" Toyota vehicles investigated by U.S. safety regulators, a report presented to lawmakers on August 10 found.

A review of data recorders from 58 Toyotas involved in crashes where drivers said their cars had sped out of control showed the brakes were not applied at all in 35 cases, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found.

Safety regulators said it is too soon to reach any definite conclusions about whether Toyota has solved the problem or if the vehicle's electronic controls could be involved. "At this early point in its investigation, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) officials have drawn no conclusions about additional causes of unintended acceleration in Toyotas beyond the two defects already known -- pedal entrapment and sticking gas pedals," a briefing note provided to lawmakers said.

The review of crash data is just "one small part" of the government's efforts to "get to the bottom of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles," said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Olivia Alair.

"At the request of Congress, experts at NHTSA and NASA are currently conducting research at labs across the United States to determine whether there are potential electronic or software defects in Toyotas that can cause unintended acceleration."

Toyota's top executives have repeatedly denied in public that the sudden, deadly surges in speed stemmed from flaws in the electronic systems that govern acceleration and braking in modern vehicles. Instead, the firm has blamed jammed floor mats or "sticky" pedals, or driver error, and has vigorously attacks claims that there could be "ghosts" in its systems.

"Having conducted more than 4,000 on-site vehicle inspections, in no case have we found electronic throttle controls to be a cause of unintended acceleration," spokesman Brian Lyons said.

"Toyota's own vehicle evaluations have confirmed that the remedies it developed for sticking accelerator pedal and potential accelerator pedal entrapment by an unsecured or incompatible floor mat are effective."

The NHTSA reviewed the event data recorders of 58 Toyota vehicles involved in crashes where drivers reported sudden, unintended acceleration. Some 35 of the recorders showed that the brake was not applied at all and one recorder showed that both the brake and gas pedal were depressed. Another 14 cases involved partial braking: nine of those had brakes applied late in the crash sequence; three involved early braking and two involved mid-event braking. One incident involved a case of pedal entrapment.bIn seven cases, the event record was not triggered by the crash, did not contain information related to the crash, or contained inconclusive information.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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