Toyota Hearings Underway
See Part 2- Smith Answers Critics
Rhonda Smith is a retired social worker from Tennessee who talked moments ago about the accelerating Lexus 350 that nearly took her life in October 2006. The new automobile had just over 2,000 miles on it.
She just told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that on October 12, she was driving in Tennessee on Hwy 66 entering I-40.
"I was entering the interstate and accelerated and merged into second lane, NOT going into passing gear. It is at this time I lost all control of the acceleration of the vehicle. The car goes into passing gear and the cruise light comes on. At this time, I am thinking that maybe the cruise is what has caused the car to accelerate, as my foot is NOT on the gas pedal. I take off the cruise control. The car continues to accelerate. The car is now up to 80 mph. The brakes do not slow the car at all. Now I am at 85-90 mph. (*Editor corrected script here)
"I push the car into NEUTAL and it makes a revving noise. I push the emergency brake on… nothing helps. I continue hitting and slamming the brakes. Now I am at 85 mph wondering if I can maneuver in and out of the upcoming cars and trucks, or if I am going to need to put the car into the guardrail and into the trees.
"The last time I looked at the speedometer it read 100 mph. At this time, I had the emergency brake onwhile frantically shifting between ALL the gears (besides park) but mainly had it in REVERSE and with the emergency brake on. I finally figured the car was going to go to its maximum speed and was praying to God to please help me. After about 3 miles had passed, I thought it was my time to die, and I called my husband (on bluetooth). I knew he couldn’t help me in this particular situation, but I just needed to hear his voice. What an awful 911 call he received at work.
"At almost exactly 6 miles God intervened. I had not tried anything different that I had frantically tried before to slow the vehicle, yet the car began to slow down ever so slowly. It slowed enough for me to pull to the left median, with the motor still revving up and down. At 35 mph it would not shut off.
"Finally, at 33 mph I was able to turn the engine off. However, the radio remained on and I was not about to touch ANY button on that car, or ever again.
"After my husband arrived there was nothing unusual with the floormats, the dash lights and radio were still on. The wrecker driver asked my husband to put my car in neutral so he could use the winch. My husband was able to shift into neutral, but when he did that, the car tried to start itself. The wrecker driver attested to this. After ten days, Toyota did not contact us. We received an analysis stating "if properly maintained the brakes will always override the accelerator." Well that’s a lie!
"WATE TV did some stories but we've never waivered from our belief that the problem is electronic not wandering floormats. We got no response from Toyota. We're here today because unfortunately it took almost four years and injuries and lives lost for Congress to take up this important issue. We hope others may be spared unnecessary pain. This failure is surely shared by Toyota and NHTSA, they showed a disregard for life.
"Today I must say, shame on you, Toyota, for being so greedy. Shame on you, NHTSA, for not doing your job!"
Smith's husband, Eddie, then testified that they received the statement about brake override fom Toyota again and eventually landed in arbitration with the automaker, something he called a waste of money and a set-up. #