What is sudden unintended acceleration?

Sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) affects vehicles, and is an occurrence where the vehicle suddenly speeds out of control. Usually in these cases, the driver is unable to stop it by traditional means such as applying the brake or even applying the emergency brake. This may result in a crash injuring the driver, other vehicle occupants, pedestrians, other vehicles and drivers, and structures the runaway vehicle may impact.

The issue of sudden unintended acceleration came into the spotlight in 2009, when Toyota announced a massive recall of Toyota and Lexus model vehicles after a crash resulted in the death of a Lexus driver and his family. The recall was blamed on defective floor mats that Toyota claimed trapped the gas pedal. Another recall followed, in which the sudden acceleration problem was blamed on a sticky accelerator pedal. The Toyota recall eventually involved millions of vehicles worldwide.

Lawyers investigating cases of serious injury and death in sudden unintended acceleration crashes believe the Toyota and Lexus vehicle electrical system is to blame for the problem. Toyota maintains the problem is caused by defective floor mats, sticky accelerator pedals and operator error.

Although the Toyota case is the most prominent due to its recent occurrence, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been examining the issue of SUA since the 1980s. It began a study of the problem in 1986 after what it called an “above average” number of incident reports involving sudden unintended acceleration.

Vehicles involved in reported SUA accidents in the 1980s are the Honda Accord and the Audi 5000. In 1997, the NHTSA recorded SUA accidents linked to Jeep Cherokees and Grand Cherokees. Since 2000, there have been reports of SUA involving Ford Explorers, Ford Mustang Cobra, Kia Amanti and Kia Sehia, and several models of Toyota cars and trucks.

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