NHTSA Proposes Updated Brake-Throttle Override Requirement

Following the rash of car crashes in 2010 that were linked to faulty accelerators in Toyota vehicles, the issue of preventing these types of accidents is back in the news. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a proposed rule to compel automobile manufacturers to include a brake override feature in new vehicles. The NHTSA hopes this feature would decrease unintended car accidents because of accelerator issues or brake failure by enabling drivers to keep control of a runaway vehicle. Proposed Requirement If approved, the proposed NHTSA rule would update the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard on Accelerator Control Systems. Changes would revise the specifications for the throttle control disconnection test procedures for all vehicles like passenger cars and trucks, despite their weight. It would also add a Brake-Throttle Override requirement (BTO requirement) for vehicles under 10,000 pounds that have an Electronic Throttle Control, which causes a vehicle to stop when both the brake and accelerator are pressed at the same time. Driver Benefits When the accelerator control system in a car or truck disconnects or the pedal sticks to the floormat, drivers quickly lose control of their vehicle. The BTO system would allow drivers in one of these scenarios to maintain control of runaway vehicles by stopping them even when both the brakes and accelerator are applied simultaneously. According to Ray La Hood, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, enacting and enforcing this requirement will give Americans confidence and peace of mind that they can handle their vehicles during emergencies. Toyota Issues In 2010, there was a sudden increase of accidents involving vehicles made by Toyota. The cars in many of the crashes were models from 2009 and 2010 with carpet protectors that jammed the gas pedals. This caused the accelerators to stick and prevented the brakes from working at the same time the gas pedal was pressed, so drivers were unable to stop their vehicles except by crashing. Toyota has since issued recalls to fix these issues, but is still involved in litigation with people who were injured or families of individuals killed in accidents due to the faulty accelerators. Reducing Accidents While the proposed NHTSA rule requiring BTO systems is still under its mandatory 60-day comment period before being published in the Federal Register, it is already making waves. Some automobile makers already include BTO functionality in their vehicles, but many more will have to absorb the costs if this rule is approved and enacted in the future. Regardless, the NHTSA is taking one step further to mandate the use of BTO systems to reduce accidents resulting from accelerator and brake issues and keep drivers safe while on the road. If you were recently involved in a car wreck that involved a runaway vehicle, contact a local personal injury attorney right away to discuss your rights and options. An in-depth investigation into the accident may reveal issues with the accelerator or brakes, which makes the carmaker liable for damages both to the driver of the vehicle and to anyone else injured or killed as a result of the accident.