Toyota to recall 3.8M cars after deadly Santee crash - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

TUESDAY, September 29, 2009

Toyota to recall 3.8M cars after deadly Santee crash

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WASHINGTON (AP) -The 911 call was from a frantic passenger, trapped with family members in a runaway vehicle barreling down a California highway with a stuck accelerator and no brakes.

The call ended with someone telling people in the car to hold on and pray, followed by a woman's scream.

The high-speed crash near San Diego in August, involving an out-of-control Lexus ES 350 that killed four members of a family, led Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday to issue its largest-ever U.S. recall, involving 3.8 million vehicles.

The recall is intended to address problems with a removable floor mat that could cause accelerators to get stuck and lead to a crash.

Toyota and the government warned owners Tuesday to remove the mats from their vehicles until the Japanese automaker could find a way to fix the potential safety hazard. The recall will involve popular models such as the Toyota Camry, the top-selling passenger car in America, and the Toyota Prius, the best-selling gas-electric hybrid.

Toyota said it was still working with officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find a remedy and said owners could be notified about the recall as early as next week. Toyota spokesman Irv Miller said until the company finds a fix, owners should simply take out the removable floor mat on the driver's side and not replace it.

A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop a vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death," Miller said.

Toyota and the government issued separate warnings to owners of Toyota and Lexus vehicles about the safety problems tied to the floor mats.

"This is an urgent matter," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "For everyone's sake, we strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration."

The recall will affect:

  • 2007-2010 year Toyota Camry
  • 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon
  • 2004-2009 Toyota Prius
  • 2005-2010 Tacoma
  • 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra
  • 2007-2010 Lexus ES350
  • 2006-2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350

NHTSA said it had received reports of 102 incidents in which the accelerator may have become stuck on the Toyota vehicles involved.

The Japanese automaker warned owners that if they think their vehicle is accelerating out of control, they should check to see whether their floor mat is under the pedal. If a driver can't remove the floor mat, Toyota advises drivers to step on the brake pedal with both feet until the vehicle slows and then try to put it into neutral and switch the ignition to accessory power.

For vehicles with engine start/stop buttons, Toyota said the engine can be shut off by holding the button down for three seconds.

The safety concern was prompted by a the fiery crash here in San diego that killed four family members in August. The crash killed California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, 45, and three others on State Route 125 in Santee.

The runaway car was traveling at more than 120 mph when it hit a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.  A 911 call made by one of the passengers said their accelerator was stuck.

In mid-September, Toyota ordered 1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers nationwide to ensure that each new, used and loaner vehicles had the proper floor mats and that the mats were properly secured.

In September 2007, Toyota recalled an accessory all-weather floor mat sold for use in some 2007 and 2008 model year Lexus ES 350 and Toyota Camry vehicles because of similar problems.

The cars are not yet recalled.  Do not take them back to the dealer.  Remove the floor mat and wait to be notified by Toyota.

For more information, consumers can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's hotline at (888) 327-4236, Toyota at (800) 331-4331 or Lexus at (800) 255-3987.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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