Toyota has recalled more than 10 million vehicles worldwide and is now sending its president, Akio Toyoda, to testify before the United States Congress. However, Toyota still has not recalled several model years of its Toyota Camry vehicle. Independent safety experts, such as Sean Kane of Safety Research and Strategies, have found that the 2002-06 Camry suffers one of the highest rates of sudden unintended acceleration, but has not been recalled by Toyota. Now, according to NBC News, Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says more crashes of Toyota Camry vehicles "raises a huge red flag."
Jean Bookout couldn’t control her revving car, even after she pulled the emergency brake. It slammed into an embankment beside an Oklahoma interstate, killing her best friend.
Bulent Ezal was about to park his car for lunch when it was propelled over a curb, plowed through two decorative fences and plunged over a 70-foot cliff beside the Pacific Ocean, killing his wife.
Guadalupe Alberto, on the way to the family convenience store, found herself racing at speeds of as much as 75 mph before she slammed her car into a tree. A witness said she appeared terrified as she flew by.
But in each of those three fatal episodes, the car involved was a 2005 Toyota Camry, a model that the company has indicated is free of the acceleration defects: It has not been recalled for either the sticky pedal or the floor mat interference.
"This raises a huge red flag," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.
At least four independent safety experts separately concluded that Toyota doesn’t really know what causes its sudden unintended acceleration problem and, therefore, doesn’t really know how to fix it. Toyota has continued to ignore electrical problems and electromagnetic interference as a cause of sudden acceleration. However, safety experts identified electromagnetic interference as a cause more than five years ago.
Now, according to NBC News report, Congress will be asking many of these same questions:
"Many unintended accelerations do not appear to be explained by floor mats and sticky pedals," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who is holding the Tuesday hearing on the recalls. "One of the key questions we will ask at the hearing is whether electronic defects could be responsible."
One of the major problems is that Toyota has created a false sense of security for owners whose vehicles have not yet been recalled, but whose vehicles may suffer from this deadly defect. For example, the Toyota owner interviewed by a CBS affiliate believed her car was safe because it had not yet been recalled, even though her Camry suffers one of the highest rates of sudden acceleration.
It will be interesting to see what Congress can uncover with its subpoena power. As I have documented here for the last several months, Toyota has known about — and ignored — its sudden acceleration problem for more than five years. Instead of acknowledging and repairing this widespread defect, Toyota waited years to acknowledge the defect and instead blamed its own customers.
After dragging its feet and being called "safety deaf" on the sudden acceleration recall, Toyota did it again when Toyota knew of the problems with its Prius brakes long before warning its drivers, customers and innocent motorists. Not only are the multiple Toyota recalls hurting consumers, they are hurting rental car companies as well.
Now, Toyota has said its own data recorders are not reliable. What are these black boxes saying that has Toyota withholding this evidence. If these black boxes said that drivers were hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake, you know Toyota would be holding these black boxes up in front of every television camera and microphone in the country. What else is Toyota covering up?
Brett Emison is currently a partner at Langdon & Emison, a firm dedicated to helping injured victims across the country from their primary office near Kansas City. Mainly focusing on catastrophic injury and death cases as well as complex mass tort and dangerous drug cases, Mr. Emison often deals with automotive defects, automobile crashes, railroad crossing accidents (train accidents), trucking accidents, dangerous and defective drugs, defective medical devices.