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NHTSA Proposes Brake-Throttle Override Standard to Prevent Unintended Acceleration Crashes

In the wake of the deadly 2009 San Diego, California car crash that killed four people because of Lexus sudden unintended acceleration, the US Department of Transportation is proposing that current safety standards be updated and a Break-Throttle Override’ requirement implemented so that drivers are better able to stop a motor vehicle should the accelerator and brakes pedals end up pressed down simultaneously by letting the motorist still have control of the brakes. Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that such changes would decrease the chances of a vehicle going into sudden unintended acceleration and prevent motor vehicle collisions that are caused by a trapped or stuck accelerator pedal.
If approved, auto manufacturers would have approximately two years to come into compliance with the new standard. The proposal would update current throttle control disconnection test procedures for passenger vehicles, buses, and trucks. Vehicles with a GVW of 10,000 lbs. or under would be required to include Brake-Throttle Override (BTO) system tasked with making sure the vehicle stops if the accelerator and brake pedals are applied at the same time.
Following the Lexus sudden unintended acceleration crash over 2 ½ years ago that killed four family members, Toyota proceeded to recall millions of vehicles over ill-fitting floor mats that might entrap an accelerator pedal, sticky gas pedals, and other safety issues linked to its vehicles suddenly speeding up and out of the driver’s control. Numerous auto products liability and wrongful death claims were also filed following reports of hundreds of related injuries and deaths. At least one person was released from prison after it was discovered that Toyota sudden unintended acceleration and not driver negligence caused the fatal car accident he was involved in.
Toyota has since implemented a brake-override system standard, and a lot of other car manufacturers either already have such a system in place or are in the process of implementing one for their vehicles. Despite these efforts, federal transportation safety officials believe a new standard would ensure that every light truck and car sold in the US has this type of brake system in place.
Our auto products liability law firm represents clients with Lexus/Toyota sudden unintended acceleration claims in the US. We applaud the Department of Transportation’s efforts to eliminate two of the main causes of SUA. However, it also has become apparent that sticky gas pedals and ill-fitting floor mats are not the only reason why a vehicle might suddenly accelerate. Of the more than 2,000 reports of Lexus and Toyota vehicles abruptly speeding up and out of control, over half of the incidents involved Toyota vehicles not included on the manufacturer’s recall list.
USDOT Proposes Updated Safety Standard to Prioritize Braking Control, Reduce Risk of High-Speed Unintended Acceleration for Nation’s Cars, NHTSA, April 12, 2012
Federal regulators want brake-override systems in all cars, Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2012

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