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Braking Override Rules Needed?

Toyota’s massive recall due to random acceleration issues begs question of potential brake override system

Automobiles, like many consumer products, are regulated by state and federal laws.  Since 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been responsible for finding ways to reduce injuries and deaths related to automobile accidents.  The NHTSA uses a variety of methods to improve automobile safety; one of its most important activities is creating and enforcing standards for automobile safety and equipment.

The NHTSA acts a watchdog and ensures that companies produce safe and reliable motor vehicles.  Toyota’s recent motor vehicle recall is one example of when the NHTSA must be involved in an automobile safety concern.

Since 2006, Toyota drivers have been reporting a problem with spontaneous and random acceleration.  In addition, high profile news reports  about drivers who were unable to control their vehicles were released.  The reports included one about the tragic death of a family of four in California that was unable to stop the Toyota vehicle that had reached speeds of over 120 miles per hour.[ii]

According to a 2010 New York Times article, in 2007, Toyota began to investigate the acceleration problem, and in 2009, the company cited that the issue was related to the gas pedal becoming caught underneath the floor mat.

That same year, a total of 5.4 million vehicles were recalled, including the Camry, Avalon, Prius, Tacoma, Tundra, Highlander, Corolla, Venza, and Matrix as well as the Lexus IS 250, 350, and ES 350.  In 2010, however, Toyota discovered two additional acceleration and braking related problems.  First, several popular models such as the Camry and the Tundra had defective or “sticky” accelerators, and the company issued a recall that affected 4.5 million vehicles.  Second, there have been recent investigations into the braking system of the Toyota Prius; the NHTSA has received an increased number of complaints about the Prius’ braking system.

The NHTSA is contemplating issuing a requirement to Toyota that a breaking override system be installed in all Priuses so drivers would be ensured that they could depress the brake pedal regardless of any acceleration speed.  The system is currently in some car models across different manufacturers, but there are no federal laws requiring this safety feature to be automatically installed in all newly manufactured vehicles.

The Effect of Defective Parts

Toyota has offered to repair, free of charge, the cars of current owners of affected  models.  In addition, the NHTSA has levied fines of over $16 million dollars against Toyota because the company was aware of the “sticky pedal” defect for over a year.[v] It is estimated that these defective parts were related to at least 93 deaths of drivers who were unable to stop their car.[vi]

If you believe you or a loved one was injured due to a defective part related to acceleration, you should explore your legal options.  Call the defective product lawyers of Munley, Munley & Cartwright, P.C. at 1-800-318-LAW1, use our online form, or visit our offices in Scranton, Harrisburg, Stroudsburg, Hazelton, Hamlin, Carbondale, or Plains.



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