Gas-pedal problems plagued several carmakers
Toyota is not the only Canadian vehicle manufacturer to have problems with sticky gas pedals causing accidental acceleration, according to an analysis of 12 years' worth of Transport Canada recall data.
CBC News analyzed the data for all kinds of vehicles, including cars, buses and fire trucks, and discovered that manufacturers such as Ford and Thomas Built Buses were also forced to recall vehicles because of problems with acceleration.
In 2009, for example, Thomas Built recalled 210 buses. The company warned at the time that "the accelerator pedal may become wedged against the scuff plate and be stuck in the full throttle position. A stuck accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death."
In 2006, Ford recalled 818 Mustang SVT Cobras, stating that "the accelerator pedal may come into contact with floor carpeting during heavy throttle application. Interference from the floor carpeting may prevent the accelerator pedal from returning to the idle position when released. Unexpected continued throttle application and/or increased stopping distances could result in a vehicle crash."
CBC News has made Transport Canada’s complaints data publicly accessible through an online database, which contains all the gas-pedal related complaints that drivers have made against Toyota since 2000. The database will allow you to see if past complaints detail problems similar to ones you may be experiencing.
The problems echo the massive recall Toyota recently issued. In 2009, drivers of Toyota models including the 2009 and 2010 Rav4 and Matrix were warned that on certain vehicles the all-weather floor mat, if not secured properly, could move forward and interfere with the accelerator pedal.
A CBC News analysis of the U.S. Transport department's recall database shows similar trends — acceleration-related recalls that go well beyond Toyota.
Consumer advocate Clarence Ditlow, along with other critics on both sides of the border, accuse regulators of acting too slowly to deal with sliding floor mats and other problems that lead to difficulties with the gas pedal.
"If you do a recall in some vehicles, and you have similar problems in other vehicles, that should be a clear warning that you have the same problem in the other vehicles," said Ditlow, executive director of the U.S. advocacy group the Center for Auto Safety.
Transport Canada issued warning in 2007
Transport Canada has made public statements on the issue.
In 2007, Transport Canada issued an advisory warning consumers of "investigations of alleged sudden accelerations and stuck throttles" related to "some interference between the vehicle floor mats and the pedals."
Among other things, the advisory warned consumers to "use only one set of mats and make certain that the mats do not interfere with the gas or brake pedal before driving the vehicle."
But Transport Canada's warning didn't work and problems continued, said George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association. He said Transport Canada should force manufacturers to design all-weather floor mats that meet certain safety standards.
Brian Jean, the parliamentary secretary to Canada's transportation minister, doesn't think such a measure is necessary. He said legislation won't prevent people from buying their own floor mats.
"I, myself, when I buy a new vehicle, I go out and immediately buy a new floor mat and replace it because I like the ones that don't leak around the edges," he told CBC News.
"And I think most Canadians are like that. That's why we have Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire and all the other automotive producers across this country producing floor mats for after-market sales."
Open to new ideas
Still, Jean concedes, the government is open to new ideas for finding solutions, including amending the law.
Yaprak Baltacioglu, Transport Canada's deputy minister, echoed this view during her appearance before a transportation committee hearing in Ottawa on March 18. She suggested the government may develop a more robust recall policy.
"I believe my minister has said that we welcome any ideas that this committee may come up with," she said at the time.
"So if you feel that there are things that we should be doing differently, or the law should be changed, we would be happy to look at every suggestion."
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(This chart includes the top 10 companies involved in accelerator recalls and the number of recalls they've been involved in.)