Driver Error in Toyota Accidents

Not quite as sexy a headline, right? Probably won’t hear as much coverage of this part of the long-running story, much easier to blame Toyota for faulty construction.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash, people familiar with the findings said.

The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

But the findings—part of a broad, ongoing federal investigation into Toyota’s recalls—don’t exonerate the car maker from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: “sticky” accelerator pedals that don’t return to idle and floor mats that can trap accelerators to the floor.

(click to continue reading Crash Data Suggest Driver Error in Toyota Accidents –

Of course, this contrary evidence is a limited data set, examining dozens of data recorders out of the more than 3,000 involved in a crash is not enough to draw conclusions.

Some Toyota officials say they are informally aware of the NHTSA data-recorder results. Toyota officials haven’t been briefed on the findings, but they corroborate its own tests, said Mike Michels, the chief spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales.

Toyota says its own downloads of data recorders have found evidence of sticky pedals and pedal entrapment as well as driver error, which is characterized by no evidence of the brakes being depressed during impact.

Still, since the start of Toyota’s troubles late last summer, the Japanese company hasn’t blamed drivers for any of the sudden-acceleration incidents, though in many cases the company couldn’t find another cause. Toyota President Akio Toyoda has said the company won’t pin the blame on customers for its problems as part of its public-relations response.

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