Entries in NHTSA (3)


Seat Belt Use at Record High, New Report Shows

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Seatbelt use in the U.S. has reached an all time high, according to a new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.

Through an annual survey, the organization found that 86 percent of Americans use a seat belt when driving a car, a 2 percent increase over the previous year. Researchers also found that seat belt use has been on a consistent incline since 1994, which corresponds with a steady decrease in unrestrained vehicle passenger fatalities in the daytime.

“When it comes to driving safely, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your family is to use a seat belt,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Officials attribute the trend to the passage of primary seat belt laws in certain states, where authorities can issue tickets solely based on those not wearing a seat belt. A total of 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed primary laws requiring seat belt use.

There have also been rising efforts in seat belt use awareness, such as the "Click It or Ticket" initiative, a national campaign dedicated to heighten awareness among young people to wear a seat belt when in the car.

"We’ve made steady gains in belt use in recent years,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Moving forward, it will be critical to build on this success using a multi-faceted approach that combines good laws, effective enforcement, and public education and awareness.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Toyota's Own Drivers Were Behind Wheel in Sudden Acceleration Cases

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/Toyota Media Relations(WASHINGTON) -- According to a new court filing, Toyota company documents reveal that its own drivers were behind the wheel in two separate cases when the vehicles experienced sudden acceleration, as their owners had alleged had happened to them.

One of the documents states, according to the filing, that a Toyota vehicle unexpectedly accelerated from 71 mph to 95 mph with "no pedal contact" while being evaluated by a Toyota service manager.

Toyota did not initially report either case of "runaway" cars to federal auto safety regulators, according to Department of Transportation officials, who told ABC News that documents relating to the incidents were not turned over until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began a formal investigation into the sudden acceleration controversy.

Both cases were disclosed in documents filed as part of a class action suit against Toyota by dozens of Toyota owners who claim that cases of sudden unintended acceleration have caused them personal injury or financial harm due to the reduced resale values of their vehicles. Multiple lawsuits have been combined into one multi-district federal class action suit h in the U.S. District Court in Southern California.

Toyota bought both vehicles back from their owners -- who had brought them in complaining about sudden acceleration -- and both owners say Toyota urged them not to discuss the incidents. The two cases could undercut Toyota's claims that every case of sudden acceleration can be attributed to driver error, faulty floor mats or sticky gas pedals.

Norma Deck told ABC News that she experienced two instances of sudden unintended acceleration with her 2009 Toyota Corolla and brought the car into the Penske Toyota dealership in Round Rock, Texas. According to the filing, a Toyota internal document says a Toyota "technician" took Deck's car out on an inspection drive.

The document states, according to the filing, that after proceeding from a stoplight, the "tech[nician] started to lightly accelerate" and after travelling "20-30 feet the vehicle exhibited a slight hesitation and then began to accelerate on its own." Engine speed "was estimated to have gone from 1500 rpm to 5500 rpm at the time of the occurrence," according to the filing. 

When contacted by ABC News, Deck said the dealership told her that they were able to replicate sudden acceleration in the Corolla. She said Toyota subsequently bought her Corolla back from her, but said she couldn't divulge more details because Toyota required her to sign both a confidentiality agreement about the sale and an agreement not to sue Toyota.

In Milpitas, California, the owner of a 2009 Toyota Tacoma brought his truck into the Piercey Toyota dealership after complaining that the vehicle accelerated without explanation. According to the court filing, another Toyota internal document states that in July of 2009 a dealership service manager took the vehicle on an inspection drive on a nearby freeway.

"As there was no traffic in front of them, the Service Manager removed his foot from the accelerator [and]moved it completely away from the pedal area," the document states, according to the filing, and "[t]he vehicle continued to accelerate at what felt like [an estimated] 70% throttle input with no pedal contact from the driver [and] within 300 feet of the initial acceleration, the vehicle had reached 95 MPH."

The document states, according to the filing, that the floor mats were securely in place at the time of the incident and no fault codes were generated by the onboard computer and "[a]s the Service Manager who experienced the condition above is considered to be trustworthy and reliable, the vehicle will be repurchased for further investigation."

When reached by ABC News, the owner of the Tacoma confirmed that Toyota had bought the Tacoma back from him and said the dealer informed him that they were able to replicate sudden acceleration in the vehicle. The driver, who asked not to be named, told ABC News that while Toyota did not ask him to sign a confidentiality agreement they urged him not to talk about the case. According to California's vehicle Lemon Law, owners cannot be required to sign confidentiality agreements over vehicles with possible defects.

"The deeper we dig into the facts that surround Toyota, the more damning the evidence that Toyota was aware of the issue, and failed to act responsibly," said Steve Berman, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in the class action suit. "Toyota's been publicly blaming drivers, floor mats and pedals for acceleration defects while quietly removing defective vehicles from the market."

According to plaintiff's lawyers, who say they have investigated hundreds of complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyotas, the Corolla and the Tacoma are the only cases they are aware of where Toyota has re-purchased vehicles after an alleged case of sudden acceleration.

When asked about the cases by ABC News, Toyota said that it is not unusual for the company to repurchase vehicles "as part of our commitment to investigate acceleration concerns." According to Toyota spokesperson Brian Lyons, owners are not required to sign confidentiality agreements when a vehicle is bought back, but "they enter into them voluntarily as part of a mutual settlement agreement."

Lyons confirmed that Toyota had repurchased the Tacoma and Corolla in question, and said that Toyota engineers have been "driving and evaluating" the vehicles "thousands of miles and no problems have been found" and "we continue to drive these vehicles even today." "As well as these vehicles, [since April Toyota] has evaluated approximately 4,200 vehicles in North America. Toyota has not found a single case in which the vehicle's electronic throttle control system would lead to unintended acceleration," said Lyons.

Toyota said that it had informed the NHTSA about the cases through the company's "Field Technical Report process." However, Olivia Alair, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said an investigation revealed that Toyota did not report the incidents to NHTSA at the time of the occurrences. Instead, the memos detailing the cases were among hundreds of thousands of other documents that were submitted to NHTSA earlier this year after the agency initiated a probe into the sudden acceleration issue in February. According to Alair, NHTSA is "currently in discussions with Toyota about these incidents."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Government Issues Safety Advisory for 15-Passenger Vans

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The government has issued an advisory Thursday to owners and operators of 15-passenger vans following two recent fatal crashes in New York and Georgia  involving this type of vehicle. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is advising drivers of these vehicles to pay particular attention to tire pressure and the age of the tires on these vans.  

Government research has shown these vans have a high roll-over rate in certain conditions -- particularly when the van is fully loaded.

NHTSA is directing the advisory particularly toward church groups and non-profits as well as colleges and universities that may keep older vans due to restricted transportation budgets. 

The agency also urged pre-primary, primary and secondary schools not to use 15-passenger vans to transport school children.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio