Federal safety officials want to require “brake-throttle override” systems to prevent runaway vehicles with stuck throttles, even though, the feds acknowledge, “almost all” 2012 vehicles already have the systems, and officials can’t say how many injuries or deaths the rule would prevent.
The proposal is one legacy of complaints about unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Most were due to driver error, a government investigation showed.
Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says, requiring so-called BTOs would “prevent most crashes where a stuck or trapped accelerator pedal was to blame” and “could prevent stuck-pedal incidents which do not result in a crash but which may require extraordinary driver action to avoid a crash.”
BTOs are set up so that the brakes win when both the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal are pushed simultaneously.
Incorrect floor mats jammed open the gas pedal on a Lexus ES 350 loaner car in August 2009, sending the car out of control and killing driver Mark Saylor, 45, a 19-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law riding in the car. NHTSA’s investigation showed that Saylor used the brakes heavily, but was unable to stop the speeding car, which did not have a brake-throttle override system.
The tragedy spotlighted the potential for “trapped pedal” situations in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles and led to a wide federal investigation and recalls involving some 8 million vehicles.
People have 60 days to comment on NHTSA’s proposed rule.