Two popular sport-utility vehicles will be recalled due to a design flaw
that could lead to unintended acceleration. The U.S. National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration recently launched an investigation into
2001-2004 Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute over concerns that the SUVs’
cruise control systems may be putting drivers at risk for a serious car accident.
According to the recall notices, safety engineers have now determined that
“inadequate clearance between the [vehicle’s] engine cover
and the speed control cable connector could result in a stuck throttle
when the accelerator pedal is fully or almost-fully depressed.”
This risk exists regardless of whether or not speed control (cruise control) is used.
The Ford recall involves 423,634 2001 through 2004 Ford Escape vehicles
equipped with 3.0L V6 engines and speed control. Meanwhile, the Mazda
recall involves 217,500 2001 through 2006, and 2008, Tribute vehicles
equipped with 3.0L V6 engines and speed control.
According to the NHTSA, there have been 68 complaints relating to unattended
acceleration in the Escape, including 13 accidents, nine injuries and
one death. A seventeen-year-old died in January when her newly purchased
2002 Ford Escape accelerated out of control and crashed during afternoon traffic.
As reported by the
Huffington Post, some consumer groups are urging the NHTSA to continue their investigation
even after the recall announcement. Clarence Ditlow, executive director
of the Center for Auto Safety, alleges that Ford knew about the issue
as early as 2005, but failed to take action until prompted to do so by
the NHTSA investigation. It also maintains that Ford needs to replace
a defective cruise control cable, which is really the cause of the problem.
“Ford’s defect description and remedy have one purpose, and
one purpose only, to avoid a civil penalty being imposed by NHTSA for
failing to do a timely recall in 2005 when Ford discovered the cruise
control cable guide would break and the cable connector would jam against
the engine cover resulting in a stuck throttle,” the consumer group
stated in a letter to the NHTSA.
As San Diego injury attorneys, we are concerned about the number of recalls
involving the popular Escape vehicles and the questions raised regarding
Ford’s knowledge of the defects. We will continue to follow this
issue and provide updates as they become available.
In the meantime, we would like to share Ford’s instructions for responding
to unintended acceleration. Drivers should “firmly and steadily
apply the brakes, without pumping the brake pedal, shift to neutral, steer
the vehicle to a safe location, shut the engine off after the vehicle
is safely stopped and place the transmission in park.”