Responding to a Ledger-Enquirer e-mail inquiry today about brake problems reported on the 2010 Prius -- a Toyota model that currently is not on any U.S. recall list -- Olivia Alair with the U.S. Department of Transportation wrote of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
"NHTSA has received a number of complaints about a potential defect affecting the brake system in Toyota's Prius hybrid and is conducting field work to examine the issue. If we have reason to believe there is a safety risk, we will take all necessary steps to protect consumers."
Complaints of dysfunctional brakes on the 2010 Prius gained international attention today as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood retracted a remark that anyone who owns a recalled Toyota should "stop driving it."
LaHood initially issued his warning while testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, according to the Associated Press. Later the secretary told reporters what he'd said was "obviously a misstatement." LaHood said he was only urging owners to take their vehicles to a dealer to correct defects.
The Toyota recall so far involves an estimated 2.3 million U.S. automobiles, according to the safety administration, which in a Feb. 1 announcement said the 2004-2009 Prius is being recalled for “pedal entrapment” caused by a floor mat that if unsecured and out of place can hold the accelerator down.
No Prius model is on a second recall list of vehicles on which the accelerator pedal may be harder to push, slower to return or susceptible to sticking. But reports today indicated another problem: malfunctioning brakes. Owners are complaining they hit the brakes but the cars don’t stop.
As a result, Japan’s Transportation Ministry has asked the manufacturer to investigate, and a Toyota spokesman told CNN that similar complaints have been reported in the United States, where drivers have said the brakes seemed ineffective when vehicles were on “a bumpy road or frozen surface.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these tips for motorists experiencing unintended acceleration:
• Brake firmly and steadily – do not pump the brake pedal.
• Shift the transmission into neutral (for vehicles with automatic transmissions and the sport option, learn where neutral is – the diagram may be misleading).
• Steer to a safe location.
• Shut the engine off (for vehicles with keyless ignition, know how to turn the vehicle off when it is moving – this may be a different action than turning the vehicle off when it is stopped).
• Call your dealer or repair shop to pick up the vehicle. Do not drive it.
Here, according to LaHood, are the Toyota, Lexus and Pontiac vehicles listed for the accelerator entrapment recall: the 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Tundra, 2007-2010 ES 350, 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS350, 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Venza, 2009-2010 Matrix, and the 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe.
These are the Toyota, Lexus and Pontiac vehicles subject to the "sticky pedal" recall: the 2007-2008 Tundra, 2008-2010 Sequoia, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2009-2010 RAV4, 2010 Highlander, and the 2009-2010 Vibe.