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Fatal Car Accident Blamed on Sticky Gas Pedal on Toyota Camry

On November 5, a 66-year-old man was driving his 2008 Toyota Camry along Interstate 80 in Utah. In the car were his wife, their son and the son's fiancée.

The family's first hint that something was wrong was when the car wouldn't slow for a stop sign at the bottom of the highway exit ramp. The driver tried desperately to stop, but although the brakes were working, the car would not slow down. The Camry plowed through the intersection and slammed into a rock wall.

The driver and his son's fiancée were killed in the car accident, and the driver's wife and son were seriously injured.

Crash investigators believe that sudden, unintended acceleration was to blame for the deadly crash. In the last ten years, NHTSA has received around 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration in Toyotas -- including 93 reports of fatalities. This 2008 Toyota Camry was subject to three safety recalls related to the issue.

NHTSA and safety advocates have also received dozens of reports that the accelerator problem kept happening even after Toyota's recall fix. Those reports -- and cases like this fatal Camry wreck -- are raising questions about Toyota's system for dealing with the automobile defects discovered in the past few years.

Camry Involved in Car Accident Subject to Three Recalls; Unclear Whether It Had Been Fixed

The Camry model involved in the tragic November 5 car accident was the subject of three recalls:

  • A 2007 recall of 55,000 vehicles when the addition of floor mats by customers interfered with the accelerator pedal
  • A 2008 recall of 5.4 million vehicles when unsecured floor mats caused some accelerator pedals to get stuck in the on position
  • A 2010 recall of 2.3 million vehicles because accelerators could stick in the on position and be slow to return to idle

Investigators are not yet sure whether the Camry had been repaired after those recalls. They believe the driver did bring his Camry to the dealership in response to the latest notice. Even if he had not responded to the first two notices, the dealership should have addressed all three problems when he brought the car in.

Toyota says that as of early November it had fixed over 80 percent of the recalled Camrys. It is assisting the Utah Highway Patrol with the investigation of the fatal accident.

Are Toyota cars still experiencing sudden acceleration even after being repaired? Sean Kane, the founder of a Massachusetts safety research firm studying the recalls, thinks there is cause for concern.

"To think that Toyota has solved the problem with these recalls -- I think the complaints show something different," he says.

Source: Associated Press, "Fatal Utah Crash Puts Toyota In Spotlight," November 15, 2010


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