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Fatal Accident Prompts Ford Escape Recall for Unintended Acceleration

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.”