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Toyota Crashes: Was Driver Error to Blame?

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By Admin on July 15, 2010 9:58 AM

Remember to hit the brakes...

New reports from "black boxes" inside Toyota vehicles suggest that driver error, not the vehicle, is the cause for many Toyota crashes in unintended acceleration cases. The government recently analyzed vehicle data and found that people had their foot down on the gas, not the brake at the time of the accident.

Many Toyota vehicles have Electronic data recorders, also called black boxes, that can provide details about what is happening with a vehicle at the time of a crash. "...whether the brake light was on, whether the throttle pedal was depressed, what the throttle angle was," and other details, Toyota spokesman John Hanson says.

This is an important development because Toyota can use the data to fight against lawsuits in cases where the drivers were not braking. Hanson calls these cases "pedal misapplication." Hanson said he hasn't seen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's probe, but the automaker is certainly keeping its eye on the matter. Toyota has recalled 7.7 million vehicles in the U.S.

Mike Michels, Toyota spokesman was asked how many crashes were caused by driver error or pedal misapplication, to which he replied “virtually all.” Joan Claybrook, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, responded to Michels comments, saying, “That is totally ludicrous,”

The fact that there are some cases of pedal misapplication does not mean that Toyota is completely in the clear. Toyota will still be held liable for the known vehicle issues that caused vehicles to dangerously accelerate and will be responsible for crashes where a vehicle malfunction was the cause. Toyota has admitted that poorly fitting floor mats caused gas pedals to be stuck down and has also admitted that some vehicles had gas pedal stick open.

However, Toyota may be able to reduce their overall liability by contesting cases where pedal misapplication is determined to be the cause of the accident. Then can contend that some people are merely being opportunists and trying to cash in on the Toyota lawsuit despite their vehicle functioning properly.

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