Many Toyota customers feel they have been misled regarding serious safety issues pertaining to floor mats, following claims that fatal accidents were caused by floor mats becoming trapped under gas pedals.
Many claim to have experienced this problem when no floor mats were fitted at all. This suggests the issue is a deeper problem, involving the design of pedals and the absence of potentially life-saving software which stops the accelerator when brakes are applied at the same time. Since Toyota is already involved in current lawsuits claiming the company covered up crash test results, it may be difficult for them to admit to any more mistakes, and a generally guarded attitude from the company has angered and frustrated customers seeking answers.
Injuries related to floor mat malfunctions range from suffering from a thorough scare to death. Fear of using the family car due to unpleasant experiences, such as vehicles surging forward into busy traffic at intersections and cars becoming unresponsive to drivers and leaving the road completely, has caused some drivers to feel reluctant to get behind the wheel of any car. This fear can severely hinder a person’s ability to function in society, since a car is a basic need of modern life.
Those affected by faulty floor mats are often left with repair bills and loss of transportation when their Toyota car is unusable following an accident. Paying for the damage to their car is likely not the only bill faced by these customers. Many were involved in accidents that damaged other property or injured other drivers and their passenger which also require compensation.
Regardless of the end result of all the investigations resulting from these accidents, the insurance claims are often processed long before any lawsuit comes to court. To keep insurance current, many who have been adversely affected by the floor mat problem, and been involved in accidents, are now faced with extremely high insurance premiums, with no recourse to any appeals.
Since these accidents were only recently seen as related, many accidents that should have been investigated further were settled, and in many cases, the drivers accepted at least part of the blame for accidents. This is because local police and crash investigators read the road markings after a crash and many of them came to the conclusion the reasons for the accidents involved drivers traveling too fast. Since it is not the place of local police forces to look further into the reasons a car was traveling at excessive speed, unless there are compelling reasons to do so, such as in the case of the San Diego State trooper, many Toyota owners were doubly punished for accidents that were not their fault, where they had no blame or liability.
The reasons for the multiple accidents may involve not only floor mat design, but a lack of software programming many other modern cars have, which instructs the engine to shut off the accelerator when the brakes are applied at the same time. This would be a sensible move in the prevention of crashes related to floor mats malfunctioning. Toyota has announced they will replace the gas pedal on the models they have recalled, but there are no details of a programming addition which would greatly assist in controlling a runaway car with a stuck accelerator pedal.
The Toyota dealerships will begin work on some models by shortening the length of gas pedals until the replacements are issued. This is a short term repair only, with the full refitting program beginning in January 2010. Development of new pedals will take much longer and are projected to begin in April. An addition of software which overrides the dual instructions to gas pedal and brake is a welcome move in the right direction, but only if it is installed on all models affected.