• Dec 7th 2009 at 4:00PM
  • 96
A few weeks ago, we learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ruled that the crash of a loaner Lexus ES350 that killed San Diego police officer Mark Saylor, his wife, 13-year-old daughter and brother in law was not just the result of an improper RX400h floor mat sticking the accelerator wide open it was due to a range of factors. In addition to the car having the wrong mats, the brake "rotors were discolored and heated, had very rough surfaces, had substantial deposits of brake pad material, and showed signs of bright orange oxidation on the cooling fins consistent with endured braking."

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, it turns out that three days before the crash, Frank Bernard had been given the loaner Lexus and experienced the floor mat sticking the throttle wide open. "[W]hile merging onto Interstate 15 from the Poway Road on-ramp, [Bernard] took his foot off the gas and the car kept accelerating, to 85 mph." Here's where it gets even more tragic:

"Bernard pressed long and hard on the brakes and was able to pull over and slow down. He put the car into neutral, but the engine continued to race at full speed. After several failed attempts at turning off the engine, he realized the floor mat had jammed the gas pedal. He slid his foot under the accelerator, dislodged it and had no further problems, the report says."

As stated above, without brake-assist (which would disappear after a few moments due to loss of engine vacuum at wide-open throttle) Bernard was able to stop the car, but the brakes would have been fairly stressed. Bernard returned the car to the dealership, but only told a receptionist about the floor mat incident. For her part, the receptionist at first stated she didn't remember Bernard or his story, but later changed her tune, stating that she told a vehicle specialist about the issue. The vehicle specialist denies ever hearing about it. And the vice president of Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon has no comment.

The question then becomes if the proper personnel had been alerted to Mr. Bernard's incident, would the ES350 have received new brakes and the correct mats before it was lent to the Saylors? It should also be noted that the ES350 was loaned to two other customers between Bernard and the Saylors without incident. Toyota has since recalled 3.8 million vehicles to reshape and replace accelerator pedals.

[Source: San Diego Union Tribune]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      So finally whose fault is it?
      • 5 Years Ago
      solution: better driving education.

      all drivers should be trained as if trying to be a race car driver or stunt driver. this will cause car accident rates to drop tremendously and those who fail to pass the tests will not be able to drive, public transportation will be their friend.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The biggest issue was this guy was unfamiliar with how the off switch works while moving in a pushbutton start car. Race training would not fix this. Owner training would not fix this (as it was a loaner). You can be sure the dealer will tell everyone who is loaned a pushbutton car how to stop it while moving now!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Jin, did you read the story at all?

      • 5 Years Ago
      Every recent (electronic-gadget-filled) automatic transmission equipped car I ever owned had software to prevent this from happening... when the brake pedal is pressed, engine power is limited to a level that allows the car to come to a complete stop. This wasn't an issue before (when the driver was actually in control), because you could just kill the ignition or go into neutral at about any engine or vehicle speed you want... same with a manual, just disengage the clutch (that simple folks).
      This is especially critical for the new cars with those idiotic push-button ignition switches and drive-by-wire systems...

      I just can't believe Toyota doesn't have this obviously important software feature in even their "luxury" cars. This isn't just because a gas pedal could get stuck... but the electronic motor that controls the throttle or even the throttle linkage could be the culprit. This is clearly a case of retarded safety engineering on Toyota's part AND dirt-low dealer service... something that Toyota hypes itself up on!

      I feel terrible for the people who died and their families...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I feel the same way as you do, but as I know Toyota is Teflon coated and people in the USA will not slow down in buying Toyotas.
      • 5 Years Ago
      of course toyota is to be held responsible. how do you design a car that can't use universal floormats? lol. crappy foreign cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "After several failed attempts at turning off the engine"

      How does the engine manage to continue operating if the electricity is prevented? To me that alone is far more concerning than a floor mat.
      • 5 Years Ago
      is this that world class dealer service I've heard so much about Lexus?
      • 5 Years Ago
      wow I think all Toyota's should be taken off the road and replaced with far more safer Hyundai's....shame on that lexus dealer.. I would buy a Hyundai genesis before that junk lexus any day now. had it been the 90s or late 80s it would had been a Lexus but not with Toyota recall record , no Sir I value my life too much to drive a dangerous Toyota product
      • 5 Years Ago
      This guy used the brakes and successfully stopped the runaway Lexus. Would this action somehow wear out the brakes and diminish the state trooper's effort to stop the car?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess that's why when my dad was teaching me to drive he always said that actually flooring the gas pedal is a bad habit...
      I never thought it could be quite so literal.
        • 5 Years Ago
        wel you don't need to floor it.
        just gradually increase the pressure during a launch.

        what i don't understand why didn't the driver pull the mat from beneath.

        it happend to a few of my cars that standard floor mat moves and gets under the accelerator.
        but i just grab the mat and move it back to its spot again, while i drive.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Like most plane fatalities, there is no one cause for the accidents,there are a series of things gone wrong. I worked at an award winning Lexus dealership for many years(16) and I cannot imagine how the people who work at this store must now feel.While some of thier co workers screwed up and people died as a result,many of them also I'm sure knew the people killed.Many of our customers were like extended family.Ergo, the personal and legal recriminations will weigh heavily for years.

      The dealership faults are clear: The wrong mats in the car, lying on top of the carpeted mats.
      The staff for not acting on the reported problems correctly.
      The brakes perhaps too abused to safely be returned to road use.
      The manufacturers issues: A pedal design which could be have been better, despite millions
      already in use by TOMOCO and most others.
      Drive by wire without software that safely interrupts fuel with heavy
      General issues: An increasingly inept public who will not take responsiblity for thier own safety
      so they know how to safely pull a car into neutral and brake safely.
      An inept corporatis media that endlessly reloops a story when it's on tape but
      rarely investigates and informs before the 'sensational' breaking news.
      • 5 Years Ago
      wow in the last 2 or 3 weeks i think i saw this same picture 10 times. why is toyota's problem becoming such a repeated topic in AB??
        • 5 Years Ago
        then why is toyota recalling its vehicles.. obviously there is something wrong with the mats so they recalled like 2 or 3 million cars..???
        • 5 Years Ago

        maybe because many lexus drivers see a brief moment of easy cash.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Because it's not Toyota's problem.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL that's hilarious!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you Matt, but it's strange Toyota's going to such extents (changing gas pedals) to fix something that's not their fault, no?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Because AB is staying true to it's business model: if it gets clicks/comments they need to keep it up, day-after-day-after-day!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I disagree. While I think you're correct that the dealership's actions were despicable and that they deserve more blame than the manufacturer, the police officer himself was ultimately in control of his fate.

      I don't mean to sound insensitive. It's tragic what happened to that family. But the fact is every time you climb into an automobile you're taking your passengers' and your own life into your hands. Everything fails sometimes, no matter how well designed. You should never begin to operate such a powerful and dangerous machine without knowing how it functions and redundant methods of stopping it in case of a problem. Anyone that doesn't think to feel for a stuck pedal or push the transmission into neutral BEFORE roasting the brakes probably should not be behind the wheel. The driver did not respect the power he was controlling enough to learn about it. It sounds as if the vehicle's previous driver also did not not respect that power, but he turned out to be luckier.

      Clearly there are some things Toyota and other manufacturers can do to reduce the occurrence of this problem, but there will always be more problems. There are plenty of risks on the road. We all take risks, but by not bothering to educate himself, that driver took a LOT more risks than I am willing to on the road.
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