ABC News investigates Toyota floor mats

November 3, 2009 8:15:41 PM PST
An investigation by ABC News is raising serious questions about a sudden acceleration problem in Toyota and Lexus models.

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There are an estimated 2,000 cases of Toyota cars surging without warning and we're talking about speeds up to 120 mph. 7 On Your Side told you about this weeks ago, but the ABC investigation shows the problem may be more serious than first thought.

7 On Your Side told you back in September about a fatal accident off a San Diego area highway. A Highway Patrol officer and three family members died when their Lexus went out of control and over an embankment.

The frantic final moments were captured in a 911 call. "Our accelerator is stuck. We're in trouble. We can't, there's no brakes," said a victim.

The problem was blamed on a rubber floor mat in the car which caught and held down a gas pedal. Toyota would later recall nearly four million of those floor mats. However, in the California Mojave Desert, the McLean family says their Highlander suddenly surged to almost 100 miles an hour. Their car did not have the floor mat involved in the recall.

ABC's Brian Ross talked to the family and asked: "And you're certain there was nothing underneath the gas pedal?"

Saskia McLean: "No. I looked."

Paul McLean: "Yeah."

Brian Ross: "Nothing?"

Saski McLean: "I looked. I bent over and looked. No, there was nothing."

Auto safety analyst Sean Kane, from Safety Research & Strategies, says he's tracked hundreds of similar accidents and at least a dozen deaths through police reports and complaints to the federal government.

"This problem can't be explained solely by floor mats," says Kane.

Concern centers around electronic computer systems used in Toyotas and Lexuses that control the throttle. Kane says complaints shot up after the system was put in use in 2002. Toyota released a video stating the problem has already been investigated by the federal government.

"The question of unintended acceleration involving Toyota or Lexus vehicles has been thoroughly investigated by NHTSA's engineering experts without any finding of defect other than an unsecured or incompatible driver floor mat," says Bob Daly, from Toyota.

You can see more of Brian Ross's investigation right on World News and there will be more tonight at 11:30 p.m. on Nightline.

ABC News links:
What should you do if your Car Accelerates out of control?
Runaway Toyotas: Owners of Toyota cars in rebellion over series of accidents caused by sudden acceleration

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