Investigation pulls up the mat on runaway Toyotas

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The Portland driver of this Lexus ES 350 said she had to crash it into a parked car to keep it from accelerating: "How many more people have to be injured or killed [by Toyota's cars] before something is done?"

By ABC News and KATU News

PORTLAND, Ore. - A local woman with serious safety concerns about Toyota and Lexus cars said: "I had a fleeting thought that this may be the day I die," she told KATU news.

KATU has the details of an ABC News investigation into certain cars suddenly racing out of control.
 
Marianna Eisner is the owner of a Lexus ES 350. She was driving that car along Interstate 205 - which cuts through Portland's east side - on Aug. 27. 

Suddenly, her car "began to accelerate," she said. Her case appears to be part of a string of crashes that caused the maker of both types of cars, Toyota Motor Sales, to initiate a recall of nearly 4 million Toyotas and Lexuses in early-October.

Eisner's story
Eisner hit the brakes, and the car kept going. Eisner veered the car off Interstate 205 and onto the Estacada exit, where it finally The Portland driver of this Lexus ES 350 said she had to crash it into a parked car to keep it from accelerating. came to a crashing stop.

"I'm slamming on the brakes the whole way, screeching," Eisner said, reliving it now. "Fortunately for me, there was a car parked in front of me that I slammed into, but that's how the car stopped."

Eisner immediately filed a complaint with the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. She tells KATU the oversight agency has 
"been complacent." 

"Like hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, my terrifying experience of sudden acceleration was clearly NOT the mat," she initially wrote to KATU. "It is my hope that Toyota will be pressured into taking responsibility and diligently look into this serious problem. I often wonder how many more people have to be injured or killed before something is done."

Eisner told her story to ABC News, and the network launched an investigation into these same kinds of complaints from owners of Toyotas and another car made by Toyota, the Lexus, across the U.S.

Indeed, one day after Eisner's accident, another Lexus ES 350, on a test drive from a California dealership, spontaneously accelerated to take its driver and three passengers to their death.

Toyota officials announced that the acceleration problem in the California accident was caused by the floor mat getting stuck on the accelerator. It continues to maintain the position that its cars' floor mats did not pose a risk of causing a car to accelerate out of control unless the mats were improperly installed or not meant for the car.

Either way, in late-September Toyota Motor Sales "recalled" 3.8 million Lexus and Toyota cars. That is the largest safety recall in Toyota's history.

Eisner said the driver's side floor mat was one of the first things she checked on that fateful August day. As she spun out of control off the highway, she looked down at her feet.

"I saw nothing obstructing the accelerator," she said. "The mat, which was an all-weather mat, was nowhere near the accelerator."

On Tuesday night, ABC revealed the results of its investigation into what could be causing the "runaway cars."

First, ABC reported that safety analysts found an estimated 2,000 cases in which owners of Toyota-brand cars - including Camry, Prius and Lexus - said their cars "surged without warning, up to speeds of 100 miles per hour." (According to an interview with the Associated Press from Toyota, the National Highway Administration has reviewed only six such cases as of Nov. 2.)

Second, it received an official statement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: "Removal of the mats is simply an interim measure, not a remedy to the underlying defect in the vehicles."

As news of the investigation comes in, Eisner's car is still in her Portland-area garage. The dents have been repaired, but she does not want to drive it. Basically, she has a $40,000 car sitting there as she waits for answers.

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