Earlier this year, Toyota recalled 12 different vehicle models due to reports of unintended, uncontrollable acceleration in its cars that has, according to the Los Angeles Times, resulted in 34 reported deaths and 22 reported injuries. Congressional investigations into the situation are pending.
The vast majority of reported cases occurred after 2002, when Toyota began installing fully electronic throttle systems in its cars.
The original recall was of the floor mats in Toyota vehicles, which the company claimed could entrap the gas pedal and cause the car to accelerate. Toyota advised drivers to put the floor mats in the trunk. When reports of unintended acceleration continued to come in after the floor mat recall, Toyota also recalled vehicles equipped with gas pedals manufactured by the CTS Corporation, but it has not been proven that this was the cause of the acceleration.
According to the New York Times, “Consumer groups have pointed to potential electrical problems [with the electronic throttle]” as a cause of the unintended acceleration.
Toyota has denied that this is the cause of a problem, citing a study conducted by Exponent, a company hired by Toyota, and other studies conducted by Toyota, itself, on Toyota vehicles. According to the New York Times, the study conducted by Exponent was called flawed by a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
ABC News reported that an automotive technology professor at Southern Illinois University “can recreate a short circuit in the electronic throttles of Toyotas that can cause a surge of acceleration.” The evidence from his tests was presented during the Toyota Congressional investigation on Feb. 23.
In an interview with the New York Times, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, Clarence Ditlow, explained that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the acceleration “because when one examines the vehicle there is no failed part—such as a stuck accelerator—to find.”
One of the most dangerous aspects of this problem is that many drivers are unsure of what to do if their car begins accelerating out-of-control.
“I would probably just freak out,” said junior Maddie Fischer, who drives a Toyota Tacoma.
According to Consumer Reports Magazine, the best thing to do if your car begins accelerating is to hit the brakes, shift into neutral, and steer off the road.