Toyota vehicles have been involved in accidents over the last seven years that a few owners say involve a faulty accelerator pedal. The company maintains the issue is limited to incorrect or unsecured floor mats.

    by: Reilly Brennan | AOL Autos

    Recently, we learned about a tragic story that's made us look twice down at our feet whenever we get in a car.

    Late this past summer in San Diego, a family of four died after the vehicle's accelerator pedal stuck to the floor; the driver, a California Highway Patrol Officer, couldn't get the car to stop. Eventually they crashed into another driver and hit an embankment, bursting into flames. He died, along with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law, who was able to make a grisly phone call to 911 one minute before the crash. Something clearly was wrong.

    Investigators with the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that a rubber all-weather floor mat was found to be at fault. The mat was longer than the original, which pushed up to the accelerator pedal and locked it into angle that raced the engine. The issue seemed to be a closed case of a terrible mishap with a tragic ending.

    That the vehicle driven by the family was a 2009 Lexus ES350 seemed to be extraneous information. Blaming Lexus certainly isn't going to bring back Mark Saylor, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella. But, was the vehicle itself to blame?

    In the Cross Hairs

    A discussion seems to be brewing about that very notion and Toyota (owner of the Lexus brand) is working with NHTSA to make sure there are no defects with their accelerator pedals or the systems that manage them.

    The long and short of this issue, in the eye of Toyota (who say they've been working with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA on the matter), is that "no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured." In other words, there is no unintended acceleration problem officially known at this time. Toyota feels confident in their position.

    Vehicles Involved in Toyota's Safety Advisory

    Toyota's advice for owners of the above vehicles: Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of specific Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver’s floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat.

    The company says that the problems, if any, are limited to incorrect and/or poorly secured floor mats. Its guidance to its dealers and owners is clear: only certain floor mats should be placed in certain cars and each should be anchored to the floor by its hooks. Recently Toyota modified that position and recommended that all its drivers should remove the driver's side floor mat entirely until a further solution is made available. Toyota says it is working on a permanent solution for certain models so that the floor mat issue doesn't come up again.

    All Toyota, Scion and Lexus models have floor-mounted hooks that attach the floor mat to the ground in the proper location, according to company spokesperson Curt McAllister. NHTSA says these floor-mounted hooks are not mandatory; some cars do not have them at all.

    Last night, ABC News's Nightline program attempted to rip the cover off of Toyota's claims. The news group posted an article on Tuesday with a headline reading: "Owners of Toyota Cars In Rebellion Over Series of Accidents Caused By Sudden Acceleration; ABC News Investigation Uncovers Reports of 16 Deaths, Over 200 Accidents."

    Critical to ABC News's claims are the first-person accounts of owners who lived to tell their stories. Persons interviewed on the broadcast claimed that the floor mats are not the lone issue (or in some cases an issue at all), but rather the real problem is a fault of an electronic throttle control module.

    "I'm absolutely certain, that in my situation, it was not the floor mats," said Toyota owner Elizabeth James on the broadcast. "I kept going faster and faster and all of a sudden, my foot was pressing on the brakes super, super hard and I wasn't slowing down. My car just kept accelerating. And it wasn't until I landed in the river that it stopped."

    Her Toyota Prius finally stopped when -- yes, you read that correctly -- she ended up in a river outside of Denver, her car a mangled pile of metal and rainbow trout.

    Who To Believe?

    The Wisconsin Law Journal seems to echo the statement of ABC News. The Journal posits that Toyota products started having more problems with their accelerators after a new type of electronic throttle control was introduced with the 2002 Toyota Camry. Quite simply, that was the time when many manufacturers -- including Toyota -- moved to a "drive by wire" system. That is, when your foot presses on the accelerator, there is no mechanical connection between the pedal and the delivery of fuel; while the pedal might feel the same to you, the workings behind it have changed. "By wire" means that now there is actually an electronic signal sent to a series of "brains" within the car that tell the throttle to deliver more, or less, fuel.

    Since the new electronic throttle modules were introduced, there is documented evidence that other vehicles within Toyota's lineup have experienced similar problems; in September NHTSA reported 102 incidents where the accelerator may have become stuck in Toyota vehicles. NHTSA recently completed its sixth investigation of the problem, however, and could find no evidence of an issue with the electronic throttle control.

    "So far nobody has been able to recreate the computer glitch that would cause the car to take off," ABC's Brian Ross said. And perhaps that's the problem -- even Toyota and NHTSA can't recreate these horror stories.

    If we're to believe ABC News's claim that 2000 incidents were reported, that's still a statistically tiny percentage of the 3.2 million vehicles under recall. Statistics give us little comfort when there's a death involved, of course. Even one episode of this type would be cause enough for a manufacturer to dig deep into any potential problems.

    So, is Toyota covering something up? At this point that kind of conspiracy theory would be off base. You can bet all 18.2 points of Toyota's American market share that they have little to gain by this sort of issue. If the company found unintended acceleration to be a legitimate problem, there would be little else to do but admit it publicly, fix it and move on.

    Here's Toyota's Bob Daly with the company's official word on the matter:

    On Monday of this week I met with Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president and general manager, in Detroit. Carter's tone indicated that he -- and Toyota -- was confident that the issue was contained to floor mats only. No electronic throttle problems existed as far as the company was concerned.

    Need to Know: How To Prevent Floor Mat Problems

    1. Use only the factory-specified floor mat for your vehicle.
    2. Secure the mat to the factory hooks, or clips, on the floor. If your vehicle doesn't have hooks or clips on the floor, make sure the mat is in its proper place and not moved forward underneath any pedals before you turn the car on.
    3. Don't buy thicker, aftermarket mats that aren't meant for your vehicle.
    4. Don't flip your mat over or double up your mats (as some owners do in the winter time).

    If you own one of the above vehicles, here's Toyota's safety advistory:Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of specific Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver’s floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat.

    "There is no evidence to support these theories," Carter told me in addition to the group of media assembled. "It is important to note there is no risk of pedal entrapment in vehicles in which the driver-side floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured. The question of unintended acceleration involving Toyota vehicles has been thoroughly investigated by NHTSA's engineering experts without any findings of defect other than an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat."

    ABC News rebutted Carter's statement in their broadcast last night. The news group did not specify which group or which individual, but said that government officials are still looking into this issue and have not given Toyota a "clean bill of health."

    No manufacturer is safe from the issues surrounding recalls and, in some cases, vehicle-related deaths. With major manufacturers building and selling millions of units per year, they have tens of millions of possible points of failure over a typical owner period. How they manage those issues, both privately and publicly, is critical. In as much as Toyota has done their own investigation and issued a quick advisory on the matter, we think they're doing the right thing. If further information develops that can be substantiated through testing of the throttle modules, we trust they'll bring about swift change to replace any faulty parts.

    "The challenge for all corporations is that money dominates the discussion, " said Rex Greenslade, owner of G Works Inc. and a former PR executive at Ford Motor Company. "It's money for the engineering of the fix, then more money for the manufacturing, distribution and fitting of the fix. And even more money if that leaves you open to subsequent product liability lawsuits. Successful corporations manage to also attach a notional money figure for their long-term image and reputation and strategically manage their crisis plans accordingly."

    Greenslade further points out that sometimes the perception of reality is more important than reality itself. A similar claim of "sudden acceleration" was introduced by 1986 episode of CBS's 60 Minutes program that did terrible damage to the brand. After investigations, Audi was found to be without fault and a woman used in the TV segment was found to be a fraud. But, as they say, the damage was done. Audi lost nearly 80% of its sales volume in the years following the report.

    "Corporations that survive such crises with their image and reputation intact do so because they acted quickly, openly and truthfully," Greenslade said. "It's difficult to accept that there's a problem in the marketplace when your engineers are telling you that there's no foundation for such a problem scientifically. As Audi found out, if the perception is that there's a problem, there's a problem, period."

    What To Do If You Encounter Problem With Your Floor Mats

    If you have the correct floor mats in your car and secure them properly, Toyota maintains that you should not have a problem. Regardless of the brand, if you actually experience sudden acceleration, place your car into neutral, apply hard and consistent brake pressure, and find a clearing in traffic to pull your car over to the shoulder.

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    1 - 20 of 470 Comments
    tjrentals Aug 28, 2010 10:03 PM
    The main problem with the Toyota accelerators is the driver of the vehicle.
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    cecelsalwass Mar 09, 2010 3:19 PM
    I have a 2008 Toyota Camry and I haven't heard from Toyota at all about a recall.Why??? Cecelia
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    r252l Mar 02, 2010 10:28 AM
    And now GM has problems with the electric steering. Recall started.
    Report This
    britmad56 Feb 27, 2010 8:36 PM
    I have a 2006 Sienna and have experienced an opposite problem with the accelerator. On 3 occasions the car flatlined when accelerating on an on ramp to a highway. Entering the highway the car would not pick up speed no matter what the accelerator position. With 40 ,000 miles I felt a tuneup was in order. I replaced air filter and spark plugs with AC units, (the old ones appearred fine) and the improvement in power is tremendous. So far it has always accelerated consistently, although ther is a very small lag to accelerating every time
    Report This
    junequest1 Feb 23, 2010 12:53 PM
    Why aren't the Highlander and Camry hybrids recalled for the accelerator sticking problem? Do they have different gas pedal systems than the ones recalled or are these vehicle owners expendable?
    Report This
    naybor62354 Feb 22, 2010 1:14 PM
    Don't rationalize Toyotas problems by pointing out problems with other manufacturers. There is a safety problem with their vehicles and it needs to be fixed...Period. One life lost is one too many.
    Report This
    sandy77758 Feb 20, 2010 1:05 PM
    i find it starnge how we in america bail out the us auto makers, than we hear all this??, where does all the truth lay?, i have a 2005 camry, and now scared to death to drive it on the highway...
    Report This
    yjkraynar Feb 17, 2010 9:45 AM
    momofeak, I showed my wife what to do and my steering wheel did not lockup. You must have put the gear shifter in park to do so. Driving is a serious business. When I took my son to teach him to drive, I had him put the car in a slide sideways so that he knew what it was like and how to avoid it. I did other things as well. I have never caused an accident but have been in a few because people don't follow the rules. You don't just get in a car and start driving. Learn the vehicle. I am very happy that you and your child are safe, but PLEASE, go beyond just driving. Learn what you can and can not do with a car. It has saved my life several times. I had a glass truck loose a sheet of glass (4 X6). It headed towards my windshield. Did I panic? No. Because I always know if there are cars around me and I knew I was clear, I jerked the car over to the next lane. They car did slide sideways but I was able to keep it under control.
    Report This
    yjkraynar Feb 17, 2010 9:31 AM
    keanu13603, your like the reporters that roam this country. Always making statements that is not true. Extremist or drama queen is the name for that kind of people. DON'T over state or react! As the reporters do, have the 10 people at the situation stand together to make it look like a crowd on the cameras so the news sell better. Drama. The issue is serious. But come on, Fords had their transmission slip from park to reverse, I had return springs break and the pedals end up on the floor. As for trucks, they were exempt from safety features for years because the US auto industries were crying. Chevy had the worst reliability and safety reports for years. They are just in the past 10 years gotten better. Quit panicking!
    Report This
    yjkraynar Feb 17, 2010 9:21 AM
    Pedal sticks and people die? This is stupid! I had a return spring break on a Dodge and Chevy. Both times the pedal went to the floor and these cars were very fast and powerful cars. All I did was turn the ignition off. The steering wheel will not lock as long as the gear shifter was in drive or neutral. No excuse other than pure panic. The highway patrol officer should had known better. Don't get me wrong. I do feel bad for these people. But they too must take some responsibility for their actions. It always seem to be the other persons fault. What has this society come to.
    Report This
    saulinob Feb 05, 2010 9:30 PM
    There is also a problem with the Lexus400h suv hybrid---INVERTER which converts DC current to AC will totally fail causing the electric and gas engines to shut down-- loose all power and place the driver in a dangerous situation. This happened to me as I was on the on ramp of the 60 freeway in Los Angeles going 50 miles per hour----lost all power---I was lucky--- had the 2006 400h towed to LONGO LEXUS and the next day traded for a 2010 RX350---gasoline engine. Now the gas pedal problem!!! I am giving up on TOYOTA.
    Report This
    dohh200 Jan 29, 2010 12:26 PM
    nor is it a gas pedal Throttle position sensor
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    dohh200 Jan 29, 2010 12:25 PM
    It is not the floor mat it is a faulty throttle position sensor!!!
    Report This
    keanu13603 Jan 29, 2010 3:07 AM
    Floor Mats do not kill, FAULTY TOYOTA gas pedals do. TOYOTAS are DEATHTRAPS. Call them what they are. It's no wonder Toyota owners are fearful of driving their cars.
    Report This
    momofeak Jan 29, 2010 2:12 AM
    I had the SAME experience!!!! My 1996 Avalon instantly accelerated and I had my family in the car, on a BUSY California freeway at rush hour! Only our guardian angels saved us. There is no other explanation why we could live through this! We were SPEEDING! FISHTAILING OUT OF CONTROL and the brakes (emergency and regular ) were totally ineffective except causing me to fishtale on the freeway and go totally out of control! This was 4 years ago, and I bought a new Camry the day after that happened. Now, I'm having nightmares and anxiety about this latest news! I'm fearing that it will happen to me again! or to my daugher who has a new RAV4. With ALL MY STRENGTH I could NOT stop my runaway Avalon, the brakes were ineffective! I finally was able to skid off the freeway and turn off the car.......locking up the steering wheel ! it was horrific !!
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    fsu1fanbecki Jan 29, 2010 12:36 AM
    I have owned several Toyotas since late 1970's -Celica's, Supra's, Camry's, 4-Runner... and now I drive '06 Tacoma X-Runner... I have had exceptional service! I have owned a Ford, and its true what they say- Fix- Or- Repair-Daily!!! Complete junk!! Chevy & GMC are good cars & trucks, but I would still buy Toyota products first!
    Report This
    njazman231 Jan 28, 2010 9:59 PM
    I bought my first Toyota ********** Camry, it was the best car I ever owned, had it for 13 years. In 2007 I purchased a used Mercedes, had it for 2 1/2 years, got fed up of the maintainence isses and just purchased a new 2010 Camry. The car rides and handles better than my benz. True the benz was a little faster and a little hotter looking, but I would NEVER buy another one and I am thrilled with my new Camry and figure on having it at least for the next ten years. As long as the electronic accelerator trouble cannot be proven to be at fault, I think the benfit of doubt should be given to an auto manufacturer that has produced millions of fine automobiles with a terrific track record for many years.
    Report This
    mylyf1 Jan 28, 2010 8:43 PM
    Securing the mat (with screw fastener (o-rings on the corners of the mat & plastic butterfly head type screw that holds the mat in place by screwing into the body of the car, which has been tapped)), or velcrow sewn between the mat & the autos' carpet.) to hold the mat in position. The mats at p.o.s. could be recalled for modification or modified at p.o.s.. The above mentioned solutions may also save the company a great deal of money as compared to modifying the accelartor pedal. Thank you for reading my suggestion. I hope you understand it. If not, please feel free to contact me at mylyf1@aim.com. Thank You Very Much.
    Report This
    nbncbear74 Jan 28, 2010 12:54 AM
    I own an 04 Sequoia and an 02 Avalon which are not part of the recall. Both vehicles were used when I purchased them. I am not aware of any problems related to this recall issue. The 04 Sequoia was purchased in November 04 and is primarily driven by my wife so she could have said something to me that I don't recall. My problem is I have read 40 of the 453 comments posted concerning this issue. In these comments I came across people that experienced problems related to this recall with an 02 Camary and an 03 Lexus GS300. There was one other person who did not specify the year or model of the car. My concern is neither of my vechicles are listed on the recall list but based on the comments from the owners of the previous listed cars I feel they should be. I have personally experienced unexpected accelleration problems with a 96 Ford Taurus, 98 Dodge Caravan, and a 01 Ford F150. I was able to shift into neutral on two ofese problems and I turned the car off on the other. I am an experienced driver and was 40 years old when I first encountered the problem. Anyone that believes all drivers should know enough to shift to neutral in an unexpected situation like this obviously doesn't have kids driving between the ages of 16 - 24. If so, they are very mature and have been taught well. Anyone that takes Toyota's problem as an oppourtunity to express negative comments to consumers who purchased Toyota's products have not been royaly screwed by GM like I was or is to consumed with buy American to take a look at other offerings.
    Report This
    rcars1 Jan 27, 2010 5:00 PM
    Has anybody really looked hard at a Subaru? By far the best all wheel drive on the road. I say this even though I work for Toyota. Test drive one today. Go anywhere in the snow. Even the gas milage is good. We have owned two of them.....going to get another one in April.
    Report This
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    A tragic story involving the death of a family driving a Toyota vehicle brings up concerns over unintended acceleration claims.


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