American Morning

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February 4th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Woman dies in speeding Toyota

Millions of Americans who drive Toyotas are asking the same question this morning – is it safe to get behind the wheel?

Toyota service centers are jammed. Customers with recalled cars are trying to get sticky accelerator pedals repaired. But some safety experts say an electrical malfunction – and not those pedals – is the real problem.

Our Deborah Feyerick has the story of a Michigan family that's looking for some answers after losing a loved one in a non-recalled Toyota crash.

Full Coverage: Toyota Recall

Filed under: Transportation
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. big daddy

    And regarding the accident involving Guadalupe. Where is the evidence that it was a defective car? Maybe Grandma Guadalupe forgot where the brake was Maybe she thought the accelerator was the brake. Maybe she became ill (heart attack, seizure, stroke, etc...). Maybe she had extra floormats in the car and the pedal got lodged on them. Let's be sure to look at all the facts before blaming the manufacturer. So easy to jump to conclusions and put blame on someone. The media has been great on this issue (sarcasm). How about "reporting" the news (facts) instead of "making" the news?

    Toyota has also recalled cars for a fix to "faulty floormats". Really, faulty floormats. How about ignorant drivers. The real issue is improperly installed floormats or extra or aftermarket mats that don't secure to the floor hooks. Is that really Toyotas fault? No! But they are taking responsibilty and altering accelerator pedals and carpet padding to create more room under the pedals for the people that need to keep their floormats clean. But the media is saying that Toyota has been slow to respond to this issue. This recall came out last fall but the media "thinks" that all these so called saefty related accidents were due to sticky accelerators. I also like how the media states the accelerator issue creates "unintended acceleration". That wording makes people think that the driver is sitting idol and the cars just take off with no input from driver. The real issue is the accelerator being applied and not returning to idol position. That is a mechanical issue not electronic.

    February 14, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  2. big daddy

    Amazing, so many experts on here. You would think that one of you could actually diagnose the problem and have a fix action to completely resolve the acceleration issue. Monday mornings you probably talk about how you could have won the big game on Sunday too. The manufactuer claims a fix action and is currently implementing it. Until there is more evidence of something else being the problem, let's give Toyota a chance to prove you wrong while you keep your opinions (and they are opinions) to yourself.

    February 14, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  3. Tom

    I want to add a comment about brakes.

    On some vehicles the brake pedal MAY not always apply the brakes when pressed.

    Based on the issue with the 2010 Prius, currently there is an issue with a 1 second delay during certain poor-traction conditions.

    While there have been NO Reports, that I can find, alleging total Brake Failure.
    In theory, it is possible that a failure in the ABS function could result in poor to no braking.

    The hybrid cars do not all have standard power-brakes, where the power-assist is coming from the vacuum of the gas engine.

    The reason for this change is that drivers needed power-assist brakes even when ONLY running on electrical power.
    (i.e gas more shut off)

    As a test engineer of electric micro-controller based products, the current design of many/most new cars is very un-safe.

    In aircraft control systems, great effort goes into the design as to NOT create a single point of failure.

    As with anything, redundant systems are even more complex and very costly.

    Today's corporate need for quick short-term profits overrides safety any day, hands-down.

    February 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  4. Tom

    I wanted to add to the discussion about putting the car in neutral, during a full-throttle condition.

    I personally have had (2) cases in (2) different NON-Toyota cars where there is a large delay in putting an automatic transmission car in neutral under high-load conditions.

    What happened in my case is that AFTER I shifted from '3' into DRIVE and then into 'N' (neutral) the car kept driving until I let off the accelerator.

    At first I thought the transmission had a defect.
    In my case, I can re-produce this situation every time WHEN driving up an incline with a 5000 pound trailer.
    After shifting into neutral, my automatic transmission will continue as if it was in DRIVE until I let-off the gas pedal.

    If I don't have a trailer, then the issue does not occur, so some how it is related to have a large load on the transmission.

    I am a test engineer by trade, and I have seen 1000s of conditions occurs that according to the S/W developers can't occur.

    February 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  5. StevenR

    My old Plymouth Horizon did this all the time. The PCV valve would freeze and then the throttle bore would ice over and the throttle would stick wide open. I NEVER got in a wreck. I always could control the car.

    If you can't deal with an emergency like this, STAY OFF THE ROAD. I agree with the poster that suggested the only safety system that failed was the one behind the wheel.

    February 8, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  6. Tim

    During the 1940s and 1950s, the Big Three sent representatives to Japan to teach the Japanese how to build cars on a mass produced basis. At first their cars were low quality, but they improved techniques and by the 1970s and 1980s when the Big Three were living off the past the Japanese surpassed them in quality, innovation and customer satisfaction.

    The Big Three then began learning from the Japanese. Just-in-time inventory, fuel efficiency, etc. Now, as the Japanese are living off the past, American cars have surpassed them in quality, innovation and customer satisfaction.

    February 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  7. calico

    This puzzles me... if the accelerator was sticking, why leave the car in gear?

    The other puzzling thing about this story is that it's put in the forefront with the word "Toyota" on it, but the car in question is NOT one of the Toyota recall models. Would CNN put this story top of the list of we delete the word Toyota?

    These recent news stories are just a big bandwagon of sensationalism. News flash: Toyota is not the first manufacturer who did a huge safety recall for something that could cause an accident. I don't get why the American automakers weren't put into the spotlight when they did the same thing?! I have a recall on my FORD F150 for a cruise control issue that may make my truck catch fire when I'm driving it. ... someone call the presses!!!

    February 8, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  8. william D. Harmer ENCO

    Same problem with multiple fault conditions. As instrtumentation creator for a major U S marine industry I was plagued by multiple EFI and Rfi interference to electronic systems as well as harness talk between circuits, as well as "potting" breakdown of modules and then there are "software" problems. I owned a 1964 Mopar that stopprd me cold when the flexible cable accelerator carb rusted thru, so mechanical linkage is not bullet proof either. I owned a 1954 Buick that had a trick starter set up that experienced carb icing which flooded out the engine, sooted up the spark plugs, and froze the little ball that was supposed to roll down and activate the start, all this happened when the ambient temp was between 20 &50 degrees and humitity above 30 %. I have a zillion bad memories of car clinkers.

    February 8, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  9. Tim

    It seems strange to me that so few drivers seem to know how to deal with a stuck accelerator pedal. When I took driver's ed back about 35 years ago it was a part of the curriculum – you actually had to switch off the motor and discover what it felt like to steer and stop the car without any power assist. It seems to me that this is less a mechanical problem than a problem with the same system that can't handle talking on a cell-phone while driving – the loose nut behind the wheel.

    February 8, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  10. Sanjose Mike


    Willing to recognize it or not, driving...just because we're "used" to it, is an activity that requires diligence, good reaction time and very special care. Driving above the speed limit or too close to the top of it, taking unnecessary chances, ducking lanes, passing on the right, tail-gaiting all are dangerous. Yet that's the way some of us just drive.

    This crash, involving an elderly woman who was ill-equipped to handle a serious mechanical emergency, died as the result. While the mechanical failure was not her fault, her response to the emergency was unsatisfactory and probably far too slow.

    At least now, Toyota drivers have been given a method to deal with these speeding emergencies. It's unlikely that this elderly lady would have been fast enough to actually do what was required, even if she knew about it in advance. I'm not as yound as I used to be either, but at least I try to compensate for that by staying a respectable distance from the car in front of me...not ducking lanes...and driving under the speed limit. Already these policies have saved me from accidents. I expect to continue...sanjosemike

    February 7, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  11. andy

    if you put a run away throttle car in neutral, the engine will over rev and destroy itself, unless the car has a rev limiter. In a car with a normal ignition switch, you should turn the engine off, and quickly turn the key to position 1 so you can unlock the steering, use the brakes, and pull over safely. . In these new stupid push button start cars, i am not sure you can even do that.

    I have had this happen to me in an older car and am here alive to tell about it. The carburetor linkage got stuck in the wide open position. It is startling when it happens, and I could see how someone could freak out and plow into a tree or something. Happened to a friend of mine, and they did turn off the ignition, but didn't turn it back to position 1, the steering locked and they ran into the guard rail and ruined the car. they were unhurt at least.

    February 7, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  12. Tundra Joe

    I think Rottweiler is right. Toyota should look into the electronic interference issues, not just simply the gas pedal. I currently own the 2000 Toyota Tundra which is not included for the recent gas pedal recall. During my 10 years driving this truck, the unwanted sudden acceleration happened to me twice. Both time, the engine sounded like the cruise control trying to resume its speed while it was not even set to ON. I had to alternately pump the brake and gas pedal before able to control the truck acceleration again.

    February 7, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  13. Aaron

    @Laughing Hardily: If you shut off the engine, be prepared to have HEAVY steering to move your car to the side of the road, and HEAVY brake pressure to stop completely. It's not impossible, just something to keep in mind if you stop your car.

    Like what "spirish" said, it's best to shift your car into neutral, coast to the side of the road (with the motor racing!), get safely stopped, THEN turn off your engine. Even if your motor, by some strange circumstance, gets damaged by the high speed of the "stuck" accelerator pedal, you will be safely by the side of the road.

    It's much easier to replace a car than a life.

    February 7, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  14. em

    Interesting how so many ignorant people towed the line about Japanese products. Lee Denny's comment barely touches on this. For years I've been hearing how Toyota is the best car maker in the world, and how Lexus–the overpriced Toyota–was an excellent example of quality. What a joke, and a travesty of justice given the unnecessary deaths that occurred due to the company's negligence. After living in Asia for 10 years, you see how Asian companies can pull the wool over the eyes of gullible Americans so easily. Don't let smiling faces and shyness fool you.

    February 7, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  15. Dave In Altmar

    jhoopy56 is...well....loopy.

    His entire premise is fatally flawed, as it is based on the presumption that brakes will always win over throttle. Here's a smack from the Clue Bat: they don't.

    He chooses to ignore the many documented reports of unintended acceleration incidents that resulted in crashed vehicles found with smoking brakes, or vehicles that were finally brought under control found with scorched brakes. Heck, the most oft-played audio clip on the news is of a driver who'd been STANDING ON HIS BRAKES FOR MILES! before he ran out of room and killed himself and his 3 passengers.

    The brake system on these cars depends on a vacuum reservoir that has a finite capacity and requires engine vacuum and time to recharge. Once that capacity is used up there is no brake power assist at all – the brakes become totally "manual" – and not in any good way.

    This is why it is advised DON'T PUMP THE BRAKES if one experiences unintended acceleration, but put the car in neutral first, then use the brakes in a normal fashion to bring the car to a stop on the shoulder of the road. You get one solid chance to do this in the right order. After that bad things can happen.

    Regardless of the root cause for these acceleration events, Toyota made a foolish design decision to not code their engine controller to respond to brake pedal activation with a complete throttle cut to idle.

    Audi did it in reaction to their "unintended acceleration problem" (which, in fairness, was never actually due to any component failure – just stupid drivers coupled with questionable pedal placement).

    If you hit the brake pedal on an Audi, you could literally be standing on the throttle pedal but the engine rpms will drop to idle, making it easy to bring the car under control immediately.

    Frankly, this behavior should be mandatory on all vehicles...

    February 7, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  16. Michael

    Toyota, Ford, GM, whatever...

    They all have problems. Want to buy a Honda? You better check out the complaint links for their transmissions. There's a lot of unhappy customers out there. How about the Chevy Impala's? Fuel Pumps.

    The list's go on and on.

    It's not just Toyota, folks.

    February 7, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  17. CraigP

    Experiencing Runaway vehicle or Sticking throttle? You can:

    Brake & hold the pedal firmly until the car stops (Brake Torque always beat Engine Torgue in any given vehicle unless the brake system also fails),

    Shift into Neutral which kills the power to the wheels immediately (for automatics) for stick shift just press the clutch pedal to disengage,

    Kill the Ignition by turning the key to Off position (older cars) or pressing & holding the Start button (newer cars) to shut the motor down, cutting of power to the wheels..

    Any of these will slow down & stop the vehicle in relatively safe distant with the driver being able to maintain control of the steering.
    However, should your brakes fail completely and the gear shift is mechanically stuck so that it can't be pushed into Neutral and the ignition key brakes off inside the ignition module so that you can't switch the engine off; then just pray to whichever God you worship, make peace with yourself & steer your runaway car off to the side of the road, down the cliff & explode into fireball or whatever since its definitely time for you to go meet your maker...

    February 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  18. CS

    Ginny, I agree completely. I have a Matrix and was thinking the same thing. Put in neutral and let the engine blow, can't these people realize that is better than letting the car accelarate beyond control if the pedal sticks. Use some common sense people

    February 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  19. dave

    To those wondering why the CHP officer didn't do certain things in the runaway Lexus, remember that this was not his car. It was a loaner with an unfamiliar gear controller and a 'keyless' ignition. To turn off the car while in gear, you have to do something hold the 'off' button for 5 seconds, he wouldn't have known this.
    I agree with the speculation that this is an electronic glitch. Something is opening the throttle and deceasing the effectiveness of the brakes (keep in mind that the ABS system can release the brakes as it sees fit).

    February 6, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  20. Dan

    As a designer of microcontroller based electronic systems, I never depend on the firmware for anything safety related. I always put watchdog circuits independent of the code to override the microcontroller.

    In the case of a drive by wire throttle, I would not let it out the door without an electro-mechanical override that removes power from the throttle motor whenever the brake pedal is depressed, returning the car to idle.

    The catch with this approach is if Toyota used a stepper motor to control the throttle which makes for a more difficult to implement safety system. I know people in the transportation policy systems and we will be investigating this further.

    But the gas pedal issue is a crock. A stick pedal cannot make the speed increase to anything higher that the amount the driver pressed the pedal. And many of the incidents occurred when the driver's foot was not on the pedal. A stick pedal will not speed the car up if it is not being pressed down.

    CTS is being scapegoated over this. And it amazes me that they came up with a fix for an intermittent problem this quickly.

    From an engineering standpoint, this whole thing stinks.

    February 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  21. MGB-GT

    I'm not a mechanic and drive a 2005 Prius. The Prius (even the '05) has a known issue with braking related to the ABS: go over a bump while braking, and you lose most break power for about 5-10 yrds.
    I always thought this was just a poorly calibrated ABS system (too slow to react ). ABS does however modulate brake power, so what if wheel spin sensor(s) or related systems go haywire and the car thinks the breaks are locked up even if they are not? It will reduce brake power.
    In terms of putting car into neutral or turning it off entirely, with the Toyota keyless ignition system both of those responses are fully electronic only, so IF the electronic system goes haywire, it is theoretically conceivable to a) have much reduced break power, and b) not be able to put car in neutral or turn it off.
    This is a very, very serious issue that Toyota needs to address asap.

    February 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  22. donnie

    It's no coincidence that Toyota's quality has been declining ever since they started building cars in the U.S. with American workers. Building cars isn't what we do well. See Detroit.

    February 6, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  23. Paul

    With the stupid steering wheel locks on the ignition switch on most cars as soon as you shut off the ignition the steering wheel locks in the position you turned off the key. What do you do on a winding mountain road. Probably DIE!

    February 6, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  24. Charles

    My 2007 VW Rabbit has the brake override feature. Any time I am driving and have some throttle in with my right foot, if I move my left foot and accidentally tap the brake it's like my car is driving through a puddle. Power is instantly gone. Why don't all modern throttle by wire cars have this? Shutting the engine off may work if you have electric power steering like my Rabbit has. The power steering pump is not driven by the serpentine belt. Maybe people should learn a little bit about their cars rather than driving them around obliviously.

    February 6, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  25. John

    A 100% safe car doesn't exist. Drivers fail too!

    February 6, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  26. the doctor

    I guess no one ever thought of taking the car out of gear.
    There are many possible causes, millions of Toyotas and under a few hundred incidents, thats why it takes so long to determine that there is a problem. If it was software, then it would happen regularly, if it was software/hardware then it should still happen with great frequency given the number of cars on the road. Looking at the pedal mechanism, I have to agree that it is a stupid design.
    The first issue stopping Toyota from acting was the realization that american drivers are idiots and could just as easily be stomping on the gas pedal thinking it was the brakes. That happens about once a week in LA, but mainly to new drivers and senile old drivers. My dodge used to have a sticky gas pedal, and the natural tendency was to step a bit harder to dislodge it. the dealer "fixed" it by putting a bigger return spring on the carburetor.

    February 6, 2010 at 2:10 am |
  27. PopMuzik

    It is a common misconception that you can't steer if you turn the engine off. The steering will be harder since it's not being power assisted anymore, but you can indeed steer.

    Putting the transmission in neutral will also work, but on many newer cars you can't shift unless the brakes are on. It's a "safety" feature that is supposed to keep you from "accidentally" putting the car in drive. I don't know if Toyota is like that or not, since I don't own one.

    I agree with Rottweiler that this is most likely not a faulty gas pedal sensor, but something deeper. I also agree with Jeff... the accelerator linkage on my 1967 Chevy pickup has never stuck either.

    February 6, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  28. david

    I agree with Rottweiler. I think it is the drive-by-wire system. Something is causing the throttle to stay in the open position.

    February 5, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  29. LCJMI

    JHOOPY56 – um, except for those cars where the brakes are not working – right. Nothing stated says she did not have her foot fully depressed on the brake. You are very wrong to make that statement.

    Multiple reports of this problem have been made, killed a CHP and family in CA under same circumstances. If you know as much as you say you do then you know fly by wire can go horribly wrong when the code or a sensor is flawed. This happens in all sorts of machines and when its a safety item. one normally has redudancies and the testing has revealed flaws before launch.

    If I had to bet, I'd bet with Rottweiler, and its not without precident.

    February 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
  30. rJ

    I have a Nissan, not a Toyota, and this happened to me. I was sitting at a traffic light in gear with my foot ON the brake( automatic trans). I never touched the gas pedal, but my car accelerated and I hit the car in front of me. I could not shift to neutral or park nor would the brakes stop me. I knocked the car in front of me forward and started at it again, all the while braking and jamming the gearshift trying to get out of gear. Finally it went into neutral but the engine was still wide open as I exited the car to check on the other driver. I am an experienced driver, clean record for 40 years, I have driven sports cars, motorcycles, raced dune buggies, jet skis, and boats. I know how to control a vehicle, but believe me, I was just a passenger that day.

    February 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  31. edaps7


    your argument fails because no car should EVER accelerate on it's own. Who cares if the brakes will stop you, it shouldnt happen in the first place. If this truly happened in this case they deserves all they can get in the lawsuit.

    February 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  32. Old Timer

    as and old time mechanic dating to the time Studebakers were common vehicles on the street I watched while substandard cheap Toyotas ,Hondas,Volkswagon cars were touted as the best in the USA PEOPLE WHO BOUGHT THEM WOULD NEVER ADMIT THEY BOUGHT A PEICE OF CRAP I was a service writer for a VW dealer who listened to owners tell me the Jetta/bug/golf/Passat were the best car they ever owned not knowing i could access the cars service history of recalls and dealer service visits I also heard the same stories from Toyota / Honda /Subaru/Mazda/ service writers Toyota and Honda deserve all the negative publicity they get as a result of these recalls and misleading (lying) ads about their quality

    February 5, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  33. Steve_C

    Regarding Laughing Hardily comment on shutting off the engine, the problem with a lot of these cars is that you can't easily shut the engine off since they don't have keys! You have to hold a button for a few second, which means taking your hands off the wheel, thus giving up a significant amount of control and also a lot of leverage that you were using to mash the brakes.

    Toyota is getting bit in the back side by all of this whiz-bang garbage they have been shoving on cars.

    I want to know why motorcycles are required to have push/pull throttles, even ones with ride-by-wire throttles, but cars aren't? FYI a push/pull is one where you have cables that both open and close the throttles, versus you opening the throttle and then a spring closes it (a disaster if that spring breaks.)

    February 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  34. Prad

    All fellow Americans...please buy American Cars only.They are the BEST cars. Infact the CAR was invented by an AMERICAN!!

    February 5, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  35. Chris

    Hey jeff, your 1947 oldsmobile never had this problem, but it DID contribute to the greenhouse gas and acid rain problems plauging our species – 8 MPG and leaded gas versus drive by wire. Thanks for screwing up my 12 year old life.....

    February 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  36. Rottweiler

    Mr. jhoppy 56, I was refering to the unintended acceleration concern.... Yes, I do remember the hack job 60 Minutes did on the Audi way back then... it was the FIRST time I caught 60 Minutes making up a news story.
    You are correct about a NORMAL braking system being basicly a mechanical system, and quite reliable. However, this is a Regenerative Braking system... This is a fairly new idea for the automotive world. The system in question is made by ITT of europe. They are very protective of their products. They have in the past been much less than eager to share any type of help with problems experienced by auto costomers.
    This leads to my real concerns about the current batch of Hybrids, being overly complicated for the sake of just being complicated. Braking systems MUST be foolproof! They can't be expected to do anything else other than stopping, a very important thing.. In my experience, expecting a machine to multi-task only gets you a machine that doesn't do anything very well....
    Now I ask, what on earth does a Hybrid type vehicle need with a transmission? Electric motors don't need gearing.
    At some point, I hope, someone will get tired of paying for stuff that does nothing aside from making autos mystical, magical and expensive.

    February 5, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  37. David

    ginny, when people find themselves in an unexpected and dangerous situation, people panic and do not always think in a logical manner. People in a high stress, unexpected and untrained situation cannot control this negative reaction. Their blood pressure will quickly rise and they usually develop tunnel vision and confusion can quickly set in. This response can and will even happen to people that are trained properly...

    February 5, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  38. spirish

    Shut off the engine? What are you crazy, then you have no ability to steer the car away from any impending danger. Much safer to just put the car in neutral, you still have to the ability to both brake and steer.

    February 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  39. Laughing Hardily

    I only have one thing to say, I hope this helps anyone ever in an "out of control" situation in a vehicle. Whether is a fly by wire set up that's out of control, or a holly four barrel with a bent throttle body... if your car suddenly goes fast and refuses inputs from the gas pedal, calmly "SHUT OFF THE ENGINE!!!" and then press the brake pedal until you come to a safe stop. I know, rocket science huh?

    Drive safe out there folks

    February 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  40. Ballz

    Batman, you wouldnt perhaps be Mr. William Mason from Florida by any chance? I have a friend by that name who used to be able to cause the fabric stitches to come undone from his down-under wind

    February 5, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  41. Ballz

    My wife has a RAV4 which, fortunately, has the VIN that shows we dont have anything to worry about with the recall situation. Part of me wonders if there are any safe Toy's out there now, given the expansive recalls going on. I can honestly say that I still enjoy driving the Rav4 when I get the chance, its still as comfortable as the day we got it last year, still gets great mileage, and Im not overly worried about the issue with the drive-by-wire sticking. A seriously nice vehicle (could handle better in snow however....) that we have no regrets buying.

    I am worried about Batman and his wanting to buy a Honda situation though...

    February 5, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  42. jhoopy56

    *sigh* Most people are missing the point. The fact that the accelerator uses a transducer to inform the EMC what the accelerator pedal is up to has no bearing on this article. Its EM susceptibility is also not the point (though there are existing DOT standards for this as well). Whatever the accelerator commands, the brakes can override, period - and can do so with a minimal distance penalty (say, 20% or so). If the car in question actually got up to "80 mph" in a residential area (say, speed limit 30 mph or so), this means Guadelupe had five seconds or more to hit the brakes BUT CLEARLY DID NOT DO SO.

    This also means, and the shyster McCune knows full well, that whatever mechanical failure might have occurred (I say "might" , because the evidence presented, barring additional mechanical forensics, equally supports the possibility that the driver's foot merely slipped off the brake, hit the accelerator, and she panicked and held it there), a significant contributory element to the seriousness of the end damages was driver error/incapacity. But acknowledging that the driver screwed up (and it was this mistake, more than anything mechanical, which led to the severity of the crash) obviously does not help him make money off of her death. So we are treated to his "solution" - an obviously faulty bit of scatter-brained thought (how, for example, would his device know when full open throttle was a mechanical fault and not a necessary emergency maneuver?), designed to steer attention away from the driver's culpability and onto an appropriate boogeyman. You will pardon me if I find his suggestion less altruistic than disingenuous, right? This scapegoatism is exactly analagous to that which was errantly directed at Audi 20 years ago, BTW, in eerily similar circumstances (including reporting media hellbent on hyperbolic exploitation of circumstances, with less than a full grasp of the laws of physics).

    I feel bad for the family, and were this my mother assuredly would pursue Toyota regarding their level of corporate responsibility for any incipient mechanical contribution, but I could not in good faith lay the blame fully at their feet for her death under these circumstances (if at all). And my level of sought retribution would be commeasurate with the perception of their frankness in isolating, and remediating, the contributory cause(s) - if some can be shown to exist. I see presumption here, based on the car's brand, but no solid empirical link.

    Whatever becomes of Toyota's PR problem, this guy is a walking advertisement for tort reform (since I am guessing he is asking for millions in unspecified damages for the estate - 30% of which he gets, of course). The ABA likes to harken to consumer advocacy when such reform is broached; the level of blatant irresponsibility on the part of this, ahem, counselor ought to make them squirm. But then again, as long as you can tap a pool of ignorant jurors and a credulous media willingly serves as your accomplice, why behave responsibly?

    February 5, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  43. jeff

    my 1947 oldsmobile with a mechanical linkage and cable never has this problem.........

    February 5, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  44. abrannigan

    Thanks for your input! It's about time someone with common sense, and a thorough knowledge of these issues spoke out. I'm really disappointed in the majority of the comments I've heard thus far. My 2010 Corolla S that I purchased in Dec. 2009 is one of the recalls; I feel that it is a waste of my time to take it to the service department for this stupid pedal replacement, but I don't want to screw up by not doing so, in case Toyota tries to hold it against me...see that one coming! I've experienced a sticky accelerator pedal years ago on a Chevrolet product and it was very frightening to say the least...but my common sense got me thru it safely. With my Toyota, on the other hand, I absolutely do not believe that this pedal scandal is an honest answer from Toyota.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  45. Lee Denny

    I am not surprised that Toyota's leader has taken so long to comment publicly about the massive recall affecting his company. For too long, Toyota has been the darling of the news media. While GM and Ford were building world class vehicles and when GM was outselling Toyota and everyone else in the world and handily beating them in the US right up until last year, the media was quick to say GM wasn't building cars people wanted. All the while, Toyota was being investigated in Japan for consealing product safety and reliability issues. They lost a multi million dollar class action law suit over engine sludge issues and their compact pick up was having rust problems causing the frames to rust completely through. Toyota is notorious in the industry for denial of defects, yet until now you heard little. Just Google Toyota engine sludge and frame rust as well as class action law suits and you will see what I am talking about. I was one of the nations largest GM dealers and I am out of business now. Not much sour grapes.

    February 5, 2010 at 8:26 am |
  46. Mark P

    Years ago I did a study on floor-mat problems and recalls in many vehicles of many types and brands. What was happening, the floor-mat would slide up and cause the trhottle to get stuck down and in the meanwhile it would also block the brake. I gave this info freely and to as many people as possible. I included the recalls, the vehicles, and everything. Guess what, nobody cared. Even after all the pedestrians getting hit, the buildings being run into, etc.
    Then there is the other problem. With all the electronics in cars today, they may not be able to handle our weather in the long term. Moisture can screw up a computer system real well. Add cold and ice and you're really going to have a problem.

    February 5, 2010 at 7:27 am |
  47. Bronc

    If this woman is so convinced that Toyota is at fault for her mother's death, why is she driving one?

    February 5, 2010 at 7:00 am |
  48. batman

    I just purchased a new Toyota. I was driving to work this morning with my windows rolled up. Since I don't fart in front of my girlfriend, I decided this morning I was going to make it rain. So I did. The smell became overwhelming and I had to roll down my windows.....the automatic window button didn't work! WTF Toyota! I can't even enjoy morning farts anymore, I'm buying a honda.

    February 5, 2010 at 5:42 am |
  49. Indylocal

    I agree with Rottweiler and am waiting for the "root cause". As a worker at a Toyota parts supplier I have seen some deceptive practices when it comes to reporting possible problems. Sometimes even with the assistance of Toyota people. Unfortunately, there is never a papertrail until the final "story" is worked out.

    February 5, 2010 at 5:00 am |
  50. joe_blow

    Rottweiler is correct. The drive-by-wire system, which is derived from airplanes "fly-by-wire" systems, are susceptible to the same interference. Only with drive by wire, there is less shielding while being subject to greater interference. Also, drive by wire systems are subject to less maintenance and are designed with fewer fail-safes.
    Add these downfalls to the fact that practically nobody is trained to use the ignition bypass, that is, if there is an ignition bypass.

    February 5, 2010 at 1:30 am |
  51. cameron

    ....gets all the attention, this can and has happened in most every make of car than uses drive by wire; just not as much

    February 4, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  52. cameron

    Rottweiler is exactly right. This is not a floor mat or pedal problem. It is most definitely an electrical issue in the drive-by-wire system. There is no sense in a recall until the cause is determined, which may take longer than you think. Until then, learn what to do if you are ever in an "unintended acceleration" event. Apply, not pump, the brakes, shift to neutral, pull over, and shut off the engine. And although Toyota

    February 4, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  53. jhoopy56

    NO NO NO. While I feel for the family, McCune is a dirtbag lawyer trying to make a buck. And Guadelupe, bless her heart, likely panicked and never pushed the brake pedal. Unless Toyota brakes are drive-by-wire (last time I checked, brake pedals were still mechanically linked to the master brake cylinder, power assisted, hydraulically actuated and 4-channel modulated by ABS to the 4 calipers), for a floored accelerator to result in inoperable (or even ineffective) brakes would mean you would have to experience failure in 2 unrelated vehicle systems simultaneously to be unable to stop the car. This, because even with the accelerator floored, a vehicle can be brought to a stop once brakes are depressed (full ABS, no human modulation). So whatever a DBW system commands, brakes will always be able to override, unless the dual fault scenario arises (and no one, in any of these discussions, asserts this, not even the personal injury lawyer who hypes his case in the press).

    Rottweiler, you're a Master Technician, you should know this. Remember the hack job CBS 60 Minutes tried on the Audi 5000 twenty years ago? Do you recall the Audi president racing a '5000 down the tarmac, then depressing both gas and brake fully and the car stopping? There's a reason for this: brake torque >>> engine torque, for all rpm.

    What I do NOT want is a wave of irrational hysteria, channelled through some mechanically retarded shyster, suggesting unneeded complication and cost for vehicles. No, we do not need a "brake override" for wide-open throttle - I would just as soon be able to accelerate my car as I see fit, in a variety of emergency conditions, and not have some electronic nanny brake me into a serious accident because some old lady with compromised motor skills could not deal with an emergency.

    What is more needed here is a driver's test which actually tests car control skills AND DISQUALIFIES PEOPLE who have lost, or never had, the ability to operate a motor vehicle with appropriate safety margins. Yes, there is a safety system issue here - and it sits in the driver's seat...

    February 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  54. ginny

    I am really curious as to why the people who died in the car speeding down the hwy (and calling 911) didn't think to put the car in neutral? I have one of the cars affected by the recall and until it is fixed I will drive it with that in mind. Can anyone answer my question, I am very confused.

    February 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
  55. Rottweiler

    As a retired automotive Master Technician, I must say...... If you think this is a floor mat problem, try again. Broderick Crawford delt with that problem in his Highway Patrol television series. A sticky throtle pedal? A part that simple, for a company like Toyota? Realy.....
    Don't fool yourselves, these vehicles use a "Drive by Wire" system. Meaning that the vehicle's Powertrain Control Module actualy controls the speed of the motor, as it sees fit , due to how far you are pushing the "Go Pedal" as well as other conditions. This means that there is NO mechanical connection between the driver and the speed of the motor. The reports of Toyotas accelerating under cruse control strongly indicates a control problem. Either in the software or an errent input signal to the PCM. Now, I will put a chill down Toyota's collective spine......... I would be looking for random radio interfierence or current induction from a high current circut run next to a low current sensor line inside a improperly shielded wiring harness. I don't have a dog in this hunt, I'm just interested to find the REAL problem. These concerns I have listed are in no way an a claim of poor quality, maybe poor PR, but.....

    February 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm |