Report: After NHTSA investigator hired by Toyota, serious unintended acceleration cases ignored
The ABC News investigation revealed that NHTSA wrote a memorandum limiting unintended acceleration claims to episodes lasting two seconds or less when the brake was never applied. The report states that the memorandum came down after agency representative Scott Yon met with two former colleagues (including Chris Santucci) who left the government to work for Toyota. Santucci testified back in December that the limited scope of investigations "worked out well for both the agency and Toyota."
Also in question is whether federal safety investigators are included in a federal law that states that "an employee in the executive branch is barred for two years after leaving government service from representing any matter under the employee's previous official responsibility." Santucci left his job at NHTSA six months before he reportedly negotiated the terms of the investigation with his ex-colleagues.
According to ABC News, the limited scope of the investigations ruled out 26 of the original 37 claims of unintended acceleration. A reported 25 of those 26 incidents led to an accident or crash, and since those incidents were outside of the scope of the investigations, NHTSA never looked into the incidents. Sean Kane of Safety Research & Strategies told ABC News that the narrow scope of the investigation meant "NHTSA almost ensured they wouldn't have enough complaint data to take action."
The extremely limited and nonsensical scope of the investigations between 2004 and 2007 continually failed to show any failures, and Toyota routinely pointed that out when the subject was brought up even in the weeks that led to the original recall of 3.8 million floor mats in the fall of 2009. In fact, ABC News claims that a document provided by Toyota to NHTSA stated that the Japanese automaker would not even submit a report to the government "in which the customer alleged that they could not control a vehicle by applying the brake."
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[Source: ABC News]
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