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Death report prompts federal regulators to launch probe of Dodge Ram clutch interlock

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into an estimated 110,000 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks with manual transmissions, saying it has received reports that the clutch interlocks on the model year 2004-2006 vehicles may be defective. One of the complaints triggering the investigation involved the death of a child struck by one of the trucks. NHTSA regulators said that three complaints it has received about the trucks indicate they can be started even when the driver’s foot is not on the clutch. “One complaint involved an incident that occurred when a child was able ... Read More

Inspection finds tractor trailer in deadly wheel separation crash was unsafe for road

HOOKSETT, N.H. – A tractor trailer that lost its wheel on a New Hampshire interstate last month, killing a 40-year-old Concord woman, had a number of serious safety violations and should not have been on the road, according to an inspection report completed just after the crash. The deadly crash occurred when driver Alan Condon, 50, of Oakfield, Maine, was driving north on I-93 and a wheel separated from the trailer. The heavy wheel rolled into the southbound lanes, struck a state police cruiser, and bounced back into the northbound lanes where it struck an SUV. The SUV’s driver, Kerry ... Read More

Allstate takes Toyota to court for sudden acceleration claims

Allstate Insurance Company has filed a lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corp. for $3 million in an effort to recover the claims it paid to Toyota and Lexus drivers involved in sudden acceleration incidents. Allstate alleges it paid 270 sudden acceleration-related claims since 2007. Allstate’s lawsuit alleges that “certain of Toyota’s cars and trucks have a defect that causes sudden uncontrolled acceleration to speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or more,” and that the problem was enhanced by “defective electronics and the absence of a fail-safe, such as a brake-to-idle override system.” The insurance company’s spokeswoman Christina Loznicka told ... Read More

Minnesota man freed from prison in Camry sudden acceleration case

A Minnesota judge has freed Loua Fong Lee, a Southeast Asian immigrant and father of four who was convicted in 2007 of criminal vehicular homicide after his 1996 Toyota Camry sped out of control and crashed into another vehicle, killing three people. Ramsey County District Court Judge Joanne Smith ordered Lee free from prison on Thursday pending a new trial. Ramsey County Prosecutor Susan Gaertner, however, immediately announced she would drop the charges against Lee. “Mr. Lee will be a free man,” Gaertner said in a written statement. Lee, 32, has steadfastly maintained his innocence all along, saying that his Camry ... Read More

minimize risk of truck fire with trucking association’s guidelines

Last week we reported that the American Trucking Association’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) established a task force to investigate the causes of commercial truck fires and prescribe possible solutions. The issue has taken on a special urgency because truck fires today tend to be much more intense than they were when cabs sported utilitarian interiors that were less conducive to heat and flame. Modern cab and sleeper trim, new composites and flammable glues invite the small spark of an electrical short or the heat of two crossed wires to ignite a fire and engulf all parts of the truck ... Read More

Toyota sudden acceleration defect may exonerate imprisoned man

If ever there were a case for the “never should have happened” file, it would be the story of Koua Fong Lee, who immigrated to the United States from his Hmong tribe in Southeast Asia shortly before he lost of control of his 1996 Camry and caused a devastating crash in Minnesota. On June 10, 2006, Lee was traveling along Interstate 94 in St. Paul on his way home from church. In the car with him were his expectant wife, 4-year-old daughter, brother and father. Just before exiting, Lee’s Camry accelerated drastically to speeds of 70-90 miles per hour, ultimately ... Read More

NHTSA says Toyota’s violations amount to $13.8 billion, may face second fine

Why did the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration slap Toyota with the maximum allowable civil penalty of $16.375 million for its failure to promptly notify the federal agency of a potential safety defect in 2.3 million cars? Was this fine, by far the largest ever imposed by the NHTSA against a car maker,  justified? According to NHTSA, if it weren’t for the $16-million-plus statutory cap, which was enacted in 2006, Toyota would have owed the federal government $13.8 billion for its failure to comply with U.S. regulations. That’s because under federal law, car manufacturers should be fined $6000 per violation. ... Read More

AP investigation finds Toyota uses dishonest legal defense tactics

An Associated Press investigation has uncovered numerous examples that Toyota has relied on highly evasive, deceptive, and unethical legal tactics when defending itself against a spectrum of claims in court. The AP investigation involved an examination of lawsuits filed against Toyota throughout in the country in the past decade. The AP reviewed dozens of lawsuits that involve a range of allegations. The records show that in addition to sudden acceleration claims, Toyota has been sued for vehicle rollovers and poor roof strength, defective air bags, faulty transmissions, and braking problems. Many of the verdicts that favored Toyota in the past ... Read More

Toyota gives contradictory and confusing advice to Prius drivers

Toyota’s sudden acceleration problem has been splashed all over the news for months, leaving many drivers worried that their vehicles may one day race out of control without warning. Recently, much attention has been focused on the Prius, thanks to a growing number of incidents — some real and others apparently false – of the popular hybrids racing out of control. To help drivers who may one day find themselves behind the wheel of a runaway Prius, Toyota issued a press release on March 12 outlining the steps to take to bring the vehicle to a stop. The problem is ... Read More