Human error caused some Toyota crashes

July 14, 2010 at 12:39 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- U.S. government studies show many controversial crashes in Toyotas were due to human error, not mechanical failure, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. recalled millions of vehicles from September through the first half of 2010 for failures of throttle systems that resulted in sudden acceleration, including incidents in which floor mats became entangled with foot pedals.

But Department of Transportation studies indicate data from dozens of reported crashes showed no effort on the driver's part to hit the brakes, suggesting drivers panicked and stepped on the gas, instead, the Journal reported Wednesday.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokeswoman declined to discuss the study, as the results have not yet been made public.

To date, the agency has received more than 3,000 complaints concerning Toyota and Lexus vehicles. In the reported incidents, 93 deaths were reported involving 75 separate crashes. Consumers, in turn, have filed more than 100 lawsuits against the company, which paid a record $16.6 million NHTSA fine for failure to issue timely recalls.

Toyota has claimed that it studied a "sticking accelerator" problem and declared it was unable to find an electronic failure that led to loss of speed control -- a claim that was met with considerable criticism.

Daniel Smith, the NHTSA associate administrator for enforcement, however, told a National Academy of Sciences panel in June that, "In spite of our investigations, we have not actually been able yet to find (an electrical) defect."

"We're bound and determined that if it exists, we're going to find it. But as yet, we haven't found it," he said.

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