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Sudden Acceleration:Design Flaw or Driver Error?

In a July 13th story, the Online Wall Street Journal released unofficial data from the NHTSA the 3000+ complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyotas that plagued the country and filled the news media earlier this year.

And if the NHTSA's preliminary data proves accurate, the culprit was more often pedal confusion than any kind of flaw in the design/construction of the vehicles themselves. In the cars examined so far by NHTSA, which has teamed up with NASA for the research, many of them show indications that the brakes were not applied prior to the crashes, but that the gas pedal was floored.

Once again, this is all speculation based on incomplete and unofficial data so far: not actual proven results. Don't expect a final report of the NHTSA investigation for months yet.

Adding fuel to the speculation is the fact that in November 2009, Toyota announced a recall of almost 4 million vehicles, and three months later there was a rapid increase in the number of complaints filed with the NHTSA. (See our spiffy chart for a visualization of this increase.)

This raises a question: if the problem was actually drivers hitting the gas instead of the brake, how many of them did it because of confusion and how many did it to make some money?

To read the original story and see a video clip of an interview with WSJ's Michael Ramsey, click here.


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