In what will become additional ammunition for Toyota supporters who say the company’s unintended acceleration problems were the result of driver error rather than electronic or mechanical errors, the NHTSA released initial findings this week showing that for many accidents studied so far, the brake was not activated at the time of collision.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported, based on data leaked from an anonymous source, that the NHTSA was leaning toward driver error as the cause for many unintended acceleration accidents, leading attorney critics to revel in the “told-you-so” moment. Stoking this fire, this week’s report concludes that “the limited research completed so far has not led to identification of safety defects other than sticking gas pedals or pedal entrapment.”
This is based on black box recorder dada recovered from 58 Toyota vehicles whose owners experienced unintended acceleration. The NHTSA found that the brake was not applied during the accident in 60 percent of the accidents allegedly caused by unintended acceleration, suggesting that the drivers may have hit the accelerator by mistake.
That said, the investigation is not complete, and the NHTSA did not explicitly point to driver error as the cause of the accidents. And according to a Department of Transportation spokeswoman, “reviewing event data recorders is one small part of NHTSA’s effort to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles.”
As Bruce noted in an earlier post, many of the Toyota lawsuits claiming unintended acceleration are likely of the “me too” variety. But considering that over 10,000 complaints over the past decade have resulted in the recall of more than eight million Toyota vehicles worldwide, it would be a mistake to jump at the opportunity to say they’re all based on driver error.