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Gov't: Defect in Toyota vehicles may be problem

November 4, 2009 4:56:36 AM PST
The cause of accidents involving stuck accelerators in Toyota and Lexus vehicles may not be floor mats after all.The Department of Transportation put out a statement on Tuesday referring to an underlying defect in the vehicles.

Some owners are suing Toyota claiming there must be a glitch in the computer system that controls the throttle.

Toyota conducted the largest safety recall in its history when it issued a floor mat recall for nearly four million vehicles. But late on Tuesday the Department of Transportation put out a statement saying, "the removal of the mats is simply an interim measure, not a remedy to the underlying defect in the vehicles."

A Chicago woman discovered the problem firsthand.

"When I started applying my brake, it got faster. It was like possessed...runaway. All I could see is red lights," said Willette Green.

Green recalls that horrifying day on August 28, 2008 when she says she thought she was going to die. She says her 2006 Lexus ES 330 wouldn't stop as she was exiting the ramp on 22nd Street in Chicago.

"I plowed through 22nd Street and there were pedestrians...there was a newspaper guy there. I plowed through there and went through fences. I ended up on the guardrail and I just knew it was over with for me," said Green.

Green survived with minor injuries but a pan handler was killed. Green was ticketed for hitting a pedestrian and cited for driving too fast and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

Green says her insurance company Allstate and Toyota inspected the car and found nothing wrong. But a letter from Toyota dated September 18, 2008 stated it is possible that the floor mat was not properly secured and could have interfered with the brake and throttle operation.

Green says she knew it was something else and filed reports with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some Toyota owners are suing Toyota claiming there must be a glitch of some kind in the basic electronic computer system that controls the throttle.

"We have all experienced glitches where something just happens. We don't know why," said Don Slavik, Toyota crash victim's attorney.

In a statement posted online, Toyota officials discounted reports of an electronic problem or other possible defects.

"There is no evidence to support these theories," said Senior Vice President Bob Daly, Toyota Motor Sales USA.

Green says she never talked to anyone from Toyota until Tuesday, a representative called checking on the car that was totaled in the accident last year. Green called it a possible coincidence.

Federal investigators have conducted six separate investigations of such acceleration surges in Toyotas since 2003 and found no defect in Toyota's electronics.

ABC News has posted a video of how to react if you're ever in a situation and the accelerator gets stuck: What to Do if Your Car Accelerates Out of Control.


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