Deadly Auto Defects: NHTSA Identifies Possible Design Flaws that May Have Contributed to Toyota Car Crash Involving Floor Mat

Auto manufacturing giant Toyota is sending out letters to the owners of 3.8 million vehicles telling them to remove the floor mat on the driver’s side until they fix the problem that killed four people on August 28. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the tragic car crash could have been avoided.
Mark Saylor, his wife, daughter, and brother-in-law died. Saylor was unable to stop when the floor mat jammed the gas pedal. The car careened down and off a freeway until it crashed and burned. Prior to the deadly crash, someone in the car had called 911 saying that the brakes didn’t seem to be working.
According to the government investigators, the Lexus ES 350 involved in the crash had a start-stop push button. The vehicle does not come with a device that immediately shuts down the car. The engine however, can be turned off in three seconds by activating using a software push button. The Lexus owner’s manual does not indicate this to users. No instructions were printed on the dashboard.
The NHTSA report also points out other potential auto defects that may have contributed to the fatal car crash:

  • The floor mats in the Lexus ES 350 that the Saylor family was riding were not made for use with this vehicle. They were manufactured for the Lexus RX 400h SUV.
  • The gas pedal was lacking a center pivot that could have made it easier to get it out from under the floor mat.

Meantime, a number of auto products liability lawyers are pointing to the engine throttle control system as another possible cause for the deadly accident. They say a defect may be what caused the Lexus that Saylor was driving to accelerate to such a high speed. The NHTSA report says the vehicle was traveling at about 100 mph. At that speed, the motor vehicle was traveling the span of one and a half times the length of a football field every three seconds.
More than floor mats: NHTSA report gives more details on Lexus crash, Consumer Reports, October 29, 2009
Toyota recall update: Lose-the-floor-mat letters go out Friday, no permanent solution in sight, USA Today, October 29, 2009
Recall won’t end acceleration accidents, lawyers claim, Wisconsin Law Journal, October 9, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Read the NTSB Report (PDF)
Toyota USA Newsroom
Toyota Recall, List of Vehicles Affected, PR News, September 29, 2009

Losing someone you love is always tragic. It is especially devastating to know that your loved one’s death could have easily been avoided if only an auto defect didn’t cause the deadly car crash.
Our auto products liability lawyers have successfully settled defective vehicle claims and won wrongful death lawsuits against the largest car makers in the world.


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