Driver error caused ‘virtually all’ acceleration accidents: Toyota

Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp.’s investigation of accidents involving unintended acceleration traced “virtually all” to drivers who stepped on the wrong pedal, a company spokesman said.

The automaker is looking into causes of unintended acceleration in its cars and trucks and has recalled more than 8 million worldwide in the past year for defects such as pedals that stuck or snagged on floor mats. U.S. auto-safety regulators are also probing the causes and haven’t released their findings.

Toyota has reviewed about 2,000 reports of unintended acceleration since March, including analyses of information from event-data recorders when the incidents involved crashes, said spokesman Mike Michels in Torrance, Calif.

“There are a variety of causes — pedal entrapment, sticky pedal, other foreign objects in the car” and “pedal misapplication,” Michels said Tuesday. Asked how many crashes were linked to pushing the accelerator instead of the brake, he said, “Virtually all.”

Toyota has yet to find evidence of electronic malfunctions, he said.

Auto-safety advocates such as Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, have questioned driver error as a cause. They have said automakers and regulators should take more seriously possibilities such as the failure of electronic controls.

“That is totally ludicrous,” Claybrook said Tuesday of Toyota’s claim. “They should be looking at the electronics in their cars and everyone knows it.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that NHTSA’s analysis of Toyota data recorders found cases in which throttles were open and brakes hadn’t been deployed.

NHTSA spokeswomen declined comment on that report. The auto-safety agency said in May that Toyota vehicles involved in unintended-acceleration crashes may be linked to 89 deaths in 71 crashes since 2000.

The agency is working with a National Academy of Sciences panel and NASA to investigate reports of unintended acceleration and whether there may be electronics causes in vehicles including those made by Toyota.