Tuesday, September 1, 2009

CHP Officer in Fatal and Fiery Crash

Minutes before a fatal and fiery crash, one of the passengers of the ill-fated Lexus made a 911 call saying that the accelerator was stuck and the car could not be stopped. The Lexus, after crashing against a Ford Explorer, rolled over several times before bursting into flames.

The occupants of the vehicle, who were burned beyond recognition, are believed to be CHP Officer Mark Saylor and his family, wife Cleofe, daughter Mahala and brother-in-law Chris Lastrella. Their car was a 2009 ES 350 Lexus loaned from a dealership while Saylor’s car was in service.

The sales manager of the dealership, Blair Carter expressed disbelief and sadness at the tragic accident. It said that all its cars have no problems as it been inspected and had run through diagnostic tests and that it has a double redundant fail-safe system that would shut the car off if there were a major malfunction.

Further, the dealership said that there was never a situation where the accelerator was stuck and the car could not be stopped. But just the same, the driver could have just put the car into neutral.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that there were 7 crashes, 12 injuries and 40 complaints in 2007 when Toyota Motor Corp. recalled more than 30,000 “all weather” floor mats used in the 2008 Lexus ES 350 and some 24,000 Camry vehicles because mats would allegedly slip forward and jam the accelerator.

The unintended accelerations could reach speeds of more than 90 mph before the cars were stopped, and some drivers reacted by hitting the brakes multiple times which depleted the vehicle's vacuum based power assist.

The NHTSA further alleged that some drivers tried to turn the car off with the engine control button but were unaware that the button must be held for three seconds to stop the engine but that it was not explained adequately in the owner's manual.

The NHTSA said that there is no recall order for the 2009 ES 350 yet.

When a dangerous or defective motor vehicle, or when there is a failure to warn consumers which causes death or serious injury, the vehicle manufacturer, component part manufacturers and dealers may be held liable under the Product Liability Law.

It is the duty of manufacturers and dealers to ensure that the products are safe for their consumers and the failure of these parties to observe their duty constitutes a breach of duty and warranty. Victims of defective products such as cars may then be indemnified for injuries or damages suffered.

While technology and the advent of smart cars like Lexus with engine button controls may seem like a breakthrough for transportation, not all of its users can sufficiently adapt or learn its mechanism. The lack of understanding and knowledge of operating vehicles such as these can be deadly.