Safety officials say driver error may be behind the N.Y. crash of a Toyota Prius

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 25, 2010

"Driver error" may be the reason behind the March 9 New York crash of a Toyota Prius that US safety officials investigated as a likely case of unintended acceleration. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an examination of the 2005 hybrid's "black box" data recorder found no braking right before it hit a stone wall in the Westchester County town of Harrison.

The NHTSA found that the throttle was "wide open," which makes it appear that the gas pedal was accidentally applied instead of the brake. Police say that it's still too early to draw conclusions.

Since October, Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled about 8 million vehicles globally over complaints of unintended acceleration due to loose floor mats that can jam the accelerator and sticky gas pedals.

NHTSA and Toyota are investigating if unintended acceleration could also be linked to non-mechanical or equipment causes, specifically any issue with the software-run electronic throttles.

Toyota clarified that the component is sound and NHTSA has not found any problems in previous investigations. According to a Toyota spokeswoman, the carmaker won't comment on the Harrison case until the results of the probe are released by the police.

Meanwhile, Acting Chief Anthony Marraccini said that the police are still evaluating the data and that they will soon issue a full report.

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