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Toyota, Lexus Dealers Will Inspect Floor Mats After Tragic Accident

Posted: Sep 17, 2009 10:57 a.m.

Toyota dealers nationwide have been ordered to inspect floor mats in all of their cars after a California Highway Patrol Officer and three members of his family were killed in a horrifying high-speed traffic accident apparently caused by a mismatched floor mat.

USA Today reports, "Toyota Motor Sales USA planned to issue an order Wednesday to about 1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers nationwide to make sure each of their new, used and loaner vehicles had the proper floor mats and that the mats were properly secured, said Brian Lyons, a spokesman for the Torrance-based company. Customers who are concerned should also make sure they have the proper mats. "If there's any doubt in their mind about the security and shape of their mat," Lyons told reporters, owners should "go ahead and visit the dealer."

Kicking Tires explains, "It's believed a floormat caused an accident that killed four people in San Diego County after becoming snagged on the vehicle's gas pedal." Four people were riding in the Lexus ES350, which a dealer had loaned to the family while their own car was serviced. Crash investigators haven't released a final conclusion, but told reporters that a driver's-side all-weather floor mat found at the scene doesn't match the ES 350.

USA Today notes that the mismatched mat "could have snared or covered the accelerator pedal." A passenger in the car "called police about a minute before the crash to say the vehicle had no brakes and the accelerator was stuck." Investigators estimate that the Lexus was travelling more than 120 miles per hour "when it hit a sport-utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames."

Bloomberg notes that this isn't the first time Toyota has heard of a similar issue. "Toyota in 2007 recalled 55,000 Camrys and Lexus ES 350s in the U.S. to replace floor mats that it said could slip forward and snag the gas pedal, causing uncontrolled acceleration." The 2009 ES350 involved in the California accident was not covered by that recall.

Drivers trapped in a car with the accelerator stuck have several, very limited options. Toyota's Lyons told USA Today, "The driver could have put the car in neutral to disengage the engine from the automatic transmission." He "also could have turned off the electronically keyed car by holding down the start switch for three seconds, but that could have locked the steering wheel, turned off the headlights and cut power-assist to the brakes, Lyons said."

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