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Sudden acceleration issue spans beyond Toyota

January 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Toyota recently recalled almost four million vehicles because of a possible problem with unintended acceleration. Consumer Reports just completed an in-depth analysis of government data and found that Toyota isn't the only manufacturer with complaints. Eyewitness News has been covering this story since it began with the deadly car crash that killed a CHP officer and his family a few months ago. We teamed up with Consumer Reports to show you how difficult it is to stop a car that accelerates on its own, and we'll show you that Toyota isn't alone with this problem.

Nancy Bernstein feels lucky to be alive after her Toyota Prius kept accelerating, no matter how hard she hit the brakes.

"The car's going about 70 miles an hour, and I'm beginning to get scared because it's not slowing down," Bernstein described.

Nancy was finally able to bring her car to a stop without injury, but the brakes of her car were completely burnt out. At Consumer Reports' test track, engineer Jake Fisher simulated a sudden unintended acceleration. Even though the brake was fully engaged, he couldn't stop the car.

"As hard as we put our foot on the brake, the car slowed down a lot, but wouldn't come to a complete stop," Fisher said.

Consumer Reports' analysis of government data from the 2008 model year shows that sudden acceleration incidents aren't limited to one manufacturer. Over 40 percent of sudden acceleration complaints involve Toyotas. Ford is second, with 28 percent, and other companies also had complaints. But it is possible to design a car where the brake can bring the car to a stop.

"Some manufacturers, particularly European companies, offer a technology called Smart Throttle. This allows the brake pedal to override the accelerator. And this is technology that Toyota will be looking to add to production in the near future, as well as retrofit to some existing models," said Jeff Bartlett of Consumer Reports.

While Consumer Reports says the risk of sudden acceleration is low, it's important to know what to do. Apply the brakes firmly, and put the car in neutral without taking your foot off the brake. The engine will rev, but you'll be able to bring the car to a stop and turn it off. By following this advice, if you ever find yourself in nancy's situation, you can do your best to come through it safe and sound.

Consumer Reports says if your car suddenly accelerates, you can be too flustered to remember what to do. So it's a good idea to take your car to an empty parking lot and practice shifting into neutral, so if it does happen, you will be prepared.