If you own a recently produced Toyota Camry, Prius, Avalon, Tacoma, Tundra, ES350, IS250, IS350 or a Lexus, you need to visit the Toyota Web site immediately. Not to be too alarmist, but you may be driving a car or truck that contains a driver-side floor mat that could cover and trap your accelerator. This problem already appears to have caused at least one fatal accident.
The Toyota site provides details on how to check whether your vehicle contains the correct floor mat and whether the mat is firmly secured. The carmaker is also working with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to work out the details of a recall to fix possible problems in as many as 3.8 million cars and trucks.
As far as equipment problems go, loose or poorly fitting floor mats seem relatively minor. The mats are not required safety equipment. However, investigators suspect a mismatched mat led to a California crash in August that took the life of a police officer, as well as the man’s wife, daughter and brother-in-law.
According to the Associated Press, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor was driving a loaner Lexus when the accelerator stuck to the floor, causing the car to reach a speed of 120 mph before hitting an SUV. Cleofe Saylor, Mahala Saylor and Chris Lastrella also lost their lives. The driver-side floor mat in the Lexus was 2 inches too long and may have snagged the accelerator. If the floor mat was the problem, whoever installed it could be held liable for the deaths–whether that was the dealer or the carmaker.
Any improperly installed or malfunctioning equipment on a car or truck can be deadly. As a personal injury attorney with more than 20 years of experience, I know that too well. This is why I am pleased to see that Toyota and Lexus are taking this floor mat issue so seriously. Toyota, at least, has not always been so responsive.