The Detroit Free Press ran an article yesterday about the Toyota runaway acceleration problem and the possibility that some of the incidents may have been driver error. Here are excerpts:
U.S. auto safety regulators have drawn no conclusions about whether drivers are to blame for sudden acceleration complaints in Toyota vehicles, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today.
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland also told the Free Press that the agency had “several more months of work” to complete, both on its own probes into Toyota and those it’s working on with NASA.
The agency is also cooperating with a National Academy of Sciences probe into the broader field of defects in vehicle electronic control, part of a review ordered by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood following questions about how well NHTSA had handled some 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota models, including reports linked to about 90 deaths.
Toyota has long maintained that outside two defects for sticking accelerator pedals and loose floor mats, there were no other faults within its vehicles that could cause sudden acceleration and that drivers were likely mistaking the brake and accelerator. NHTSA has also said that it has been unable to find any other causes beyond the pedal and floor mat recalls.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the agency had analyzed data recorders from several Toyotas where owners said sudden acceleration had led to a crash, finding no evidence of electronic failure.
When asked if NHTSA had settled on any conclusions about sudden acceleration causes, Strickland replied: “None whatsoever.” “We are in process, internally and with NASA, and we have several more months to go.”
NHTSA has long maintained that most sudden acceleration complaints are typically due to driver error. It told the NAS panel two weeks ago that older drivers are more likely to report sudden acceleration complaints.
Other experts have said NHTSA and Toyota would have to perform more thorough probes into the software and hardware controlling key vehicle functions before ruling them out as a possible cause.