Although runaway cars, trucks, or buses are exciting and thrilling in action movies, they are not nearly as delightful to watch in real life. Sudden unintended acceleration presents a real problem. It causes a vehicle (which, on average, weighs two tons) to careen out of control and into other vehicles, homes, businesses, pedestrians, and anything else that gets in its way. The results can be deadly.
What is Sudden Unintended Acceleration?
While it is true that sudden unintended acceleration is sometimes caused by driver error, it can also be the result of a serious automotive defect. In fact, it has become one of the most deadly automotive defects in history.
It occurs when the electronics in the vehicle malfunction and make the throttle open wide. This means that the driver cannot idle the vehicle while it remains in gear. The brakes’ ability to slow the vehicle are also extremely limited, making it seem as if the brake is not doing anything at all. This malfunction is also occasionally caused by floor mats and pedals.
If the sudden unintended acceleration is caused by an electronic malfunction, it can be very difficult to detect signs that a malfunction occurred (or will occur to prevent it). That means that drivers that cannot speak for themselves after an accident are often blamed instead of looking deeper into the car’s electronic system.
Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration Recalls
Toyota has by far the most well-known trouble with all of these issues. They issued millions of recalls on both their Toyota and Lexus models for problems with its Smart Throttle Technology, floor mats, and pedal placements. In addition, many of the vehicles did not include a safety feature (“brake-to-idle” override) where the driver could override the electronic throttle and better control the vehicle in the event of sudden unintended acceleration. In 2009, it recalled 4.8 million vehicles. Another 4.7 million were recalled in 2010.
The car manufacturer was ordered to pay millions in the recalls and they also had to pay civil fines to the federal government for the failure to report safety defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a timely fashion. The fines totaled $48.8 million. This amount, of course, did not include any civil actions that individual parties had against the company for the devastating effects of sudden unintended acceleration throughout the United States.
Toyota was fined another $1.2 billion in 2014 for unintended acceleration related to floor mat problems. During 2014, they issued another recall of 8.1 million vehicles. However, after extensively researching the situation, Toyota found that most of the problems could be solved by simply removing the problematic floor mats. Experts are still skeptical that this simple act will solve all of the problems related to sudden unintended acceleration in their vehicles.
Although Toyota has likely gotten the most media attention for this problem, sudden unintended acceleration can occur on practically any type of vehicle. Newer vehicles are more susceptible to this type of defect. However, sudden unintended acceleration has been reported in vehicles as early as the 1970s, and the NHTSA did its first study on unintentional acceleration in 1986.
When Does Sudden Unintended Acceleration Occur?
Sudden unintended acceleration can occur at virtually any time while the car is being driven. Any act that affects the electrical current in the acceleration mechanisms can lead to sudden unintended acceleration.
- Before 1995, the acceleration usually occurred while shifting from park to drive.
- During the scare in 2009 and 2010, the acceleration occurred as the car was being driven at higher speeds (without braking).
- In 2014, the acceleration might occur while you are turning or applying the brake at slow speeds.
- It can also occur as you shift gears or turn off the cruise control.
How to React to Sudden Unintended Acceleration
If your car suddenly accelerates as if someone is slamming on the gas pedal, do not panic. Read through these quick tips so you are prepared if it happens to you.
- Press the brake as hard as you can. Do not pump the pedal, but keep a hard pressure on it as long as you can. The engine throttle is wide open, so your normal braking pressure is ineffective because the brake booster will not work when the throttle is wide open. Use all of your leg strength to push! It will take some time to slow the vehicle.
- Put the car into neutral. At this point, do not worry about harming the transmission. The engine will be revving very high. Ignore it and get the car into neutral as soon as you can. The brakes will work better once the car is in neutral as well. Put it in park as soon as you have slowed enough.
- Turn off the car. If you have gotten the car in neutral, then many of the dangers of sudden unintended acceleration have disappeared. However, just to be safe, it is a good idea to completely shut off the car. If you have a push button car, hold the button down for three seconds to cut the engine.
Do not attempt to drive the car again until the problem can be addressed. If the car has accelerated suddenly once, it is more likely to occur again.
What Should I Do After An Unintended Acceleration Accident?
First, you should take your vehicle to a dealer to be examined. Be sure there is not something else wrong with your vehicle and determine if it is safe to drive. Then, call The Dixon Injury Firm at (314) 409-7060. If there was property damage or anyone was injured as a result of sudden unintended acceleration, then you may be entitled to compensation.
The Dixon Injury Firm is based in St. Louis and features a well-trained and experienced legal staff who can provide compassionate and aggressive legal representation. We understand that a sudden unintended acceleration accident is stressful, frightening, and could result in serious damage that was likely not your fault.
Call today for a free case evaluation. There is no fee unless your case is successful.