Toyota Blames Driver Error for Unintended Acceleration

According to Toyota Motor Corporation, “virtually all” of the incidents of unintentional acceleration it has investigated were the result of the driver mistakenly pressing the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said the automaker has complete reviews of about 2,000 reports of sudden acceleration since last March. He said the reviews included analyses of onboard event-data recorders, often referred to as “black boxes”.

Michels said sudden acceleration can be caused by a number of factors including “pedal entrapment, sticky pedal, other foreign objects in the car” and by the driver mistakenly pressing the throttle pedal instead of the brake; something Michels calls “pedal misapplication,” which he said was the cause of “virtually all” of the incidents Toyota has reviewed.

Over the past year, reports of unintentional acceleration have resulted in the recall of approximately 10.8 million Toyota vehicles worldwide. Of those vehicles, 8.5 million were recalled in the U.S.

U.S. regulators are currently conducting their own investigations to determine the reason for sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles. They have not yet released their findings. However, in April, Toyota agreed to pay a record $16.4 million fine for its failure to notify the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of reports of sudden acceleration in its vehicles. Toyota has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Michels also said Toyota has found no evidence that electronic malfunctions played any part in the incidents of unintentional acceleration it has reviewed.

A number of consumer advocates, including former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook, are highly skeptical and critical of Toyota announcement. Claybrook, who now serves as the president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, called the announcement “totally ludicrous.” “They should be looking at the electronics in their cars,” she said, “and everyone knows it.”

The NHTSA declined to comment on Toyota’s announcement. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the agency has found data recorder evidence that some incidents of sudden acceleration were caused by the driver mistakenly depressing the throttle pedal instead of the brake pedal.

As of last May, the NHTSA said unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles may have resulted in as many as 89 deaths in the U.S. since 2000.

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