Unsafe by definition: Sudden unintended acceleration

Consumer Reports News: January 27, 2010 05:21 PM

What it is: Sudden unintended acceleration, or SUA, refers to incidents when a vehicle quickly and unexpectedly takes off or speeds up for no apparent reason. SUA has been blamed for many crashes and deaths involving vehicles from many different manufacturers, but the recent news about SUA problems with some Toyotas has amounted to the biggest recall in automotive history.
 
Why it's news: SUA has been in the headlines recently in connection with two huge Toyota recalls including the Camry, the best-selling car in America. The company recalled 3.8 million vehicles last fall and another 2.3 million last week, which the company warned could be subject to stuck accelerator problems. In response, Toyota has temporarily suspended sales and shut down production of the affected models.

In December, our car team conducted an analysis of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety-complaints database and found that 2008 Toyota and Lexus models had a much greater incidence of sudden unintended acceleration than other brands. Since then, our Cars blog has reported extensively on the issue, including advice on what to do if you are caught in a runaway car .

Safety consultant Sean Kane has also been following the Toyota recalls on his Web site, Safety Research and Strategies, including stories from drivers who survived crashes caused by SUA and stories of victims who didn't.

For ongoing coverage, visit our Cars blog. And print out the instructions for "Five steps that can save your life." (PDF)


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