As a Missouri defective automotive product attorney, I had already heard about Toyota Motor Corp.’s safety recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles. This recall, the largest in Toyota’s history, was announced after the automaker and federal regulators found that floor mat problems could cause the accelerator pedal to jam while open. (Toyota and Lexus owners can check Toyota’s press release for information on how to stay safe.) Regulators believe the problem has caused at least five fatal crashes and hundreds of other incidents, including a crash in suburban San Diego that killed an off-duty Highway Patrol officer and three family members. But an Oct. 18 article in the Los Angeles Times said the problem may be exacerbated by problems with electronic systems in the vehicles.
According to the article, in fact, the systems that pose the problems tend to be newer and may even be selling points. For example, most people in an uncontrollable speed situation think first about braking — but modern vehicles have power-assisted brakes, which draw vacuum power from the engine. When the throttle is open all the way, that vacuum power disappears, and the power brake feature goes with it. Similarly, Toyota suggests that drivers turn off their engines when accelerating out of control. In a key-operated vehicle, drivers can turn the key to off/ACC, but this leaves them without power steering or brakes. And if they take the key out, it will lock the steering wheel. Meanwhile, newer vehicles with push-button starts require the drivers to hold the button down for three seconds to stop the engine (and remove power steering and brakes), which is a long time when your vehicle is out of control. And shifting into neutral, another Toyota solution, can be difficult and confusing in vehicles with “automanual” shifters.
I applaud Toyota for taking action on this issue, rather than actively trying to cover it up or blame after-market use. But as a southern Illinois product defects lawyer, I wonder whether it acted as quickly as it could have. The San Diego crash was at least the fifth fatal crash caused by this issue in two years, according to the Times, and federal agencies have opened nine investigations into sudden accelerations in Toyota vehicles since 2000. And the article noted that some have criticized Toyota’s lack of a fail-safe mechanism in its computerized engine for nearly 10 years. Speeding, even voluntary speeding, has been a safety issue for decades; it’s not hard to predict that involuntary, uncontrolled speeding could be deadly. To save lives, manufacturers have a responsibility to come clean to the public as soon as reasonably possible.
At the Lowe Law Firm, we represent clients injured by safety defects in all types of consumer products, including but not limited to motor vehicles and their parts. While most traffic accidents are caused by bad decisions behind the wheel, a few each year are caused by bad decisions at the manufacturer that lead to severe defects in the design, manufacture or safety warnings in the final product. When this happens with vehicles, it can create an accident that no amount of skill or care by the driver can avoid. When this kind of flaw creates a serious crash, our St. Louis vehicle defect attorneys help victims hold the manufacturer legally responsible for the results of its negligence.
If you have lost a loved one or been seriously injured by a problem with Toyota floor mats or any other vehicle defect, and you’d like to learn more about your legal options, you should call the Lowe Law Firm for a free, confidential consultation. To set one up, please contact us online or call 1-877-678-3400 toll-free.