Toyota advises drivers to remove floor mats


Toyota USA on Tuesday advised owners of a number of its vehicles sold over the last six years to remove their driver’s side floor mats to avoid the potential for accelerator interference, a problem that apparently caused a Santee-area car crash that killed an off-duty CHP officer and three family members.

In a prepared statement, the automaker acknowledged that unspecified “recent event”’ had prompted company officials to “take a closer look at the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat.”

The problem “may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death,” according to the company statement.

Preliminary evidence suggests that the wrong model of all-weather rubber mat caused California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor to lose control of a 2009 Lexus ES 350 -- part of Toyota’s luxury vehicle line -- on State Route 125 last month.

About 6:30 p.m. Aug. 28, Saylor’s brother-in-law, 38-year-old Chris Lastrella, made a 911 from the back seat of the sedan to report that its accelerator was stuck, sending it hurtling down the freeway at about 120 mph.

Moments later, the Lexus, a loaner vehicle from an El Cajon dealership, careened through the T-intersection at the end of state Route 125 at Mission Gorge Road, struck a Ford Explorer, plowed through a picket fence, went over an embankment into the bed of the San Diego River and burst into flames.

The crash killed Saylor and his wife, Cleofe, both 45; their 13-year-old daughter, Mahala; and Lastrella.

Until the company “develops a remedy’’ to the flaw, Toyota is asking

owners of the following model vehicles to take out any removable driver’s-side

mats and not replace them with any type of floor covering:

-- 2005-2010 Avalon;

-- 2007-2010 Camry;

-- 2004-2009 Prius

-- 2005-2010 Tacoma

-- 2007-2010 Tundra

-- 2007-2010 ES350

-- 2006-2010 IS250 and IS350.

“Toyota considers this a critical matter and will soon launch a safety campaign on specific Toyota and Lexus vehicles,’’ the company stated.

In the event owners choose not to remove their floor mat, Toyota urges them to ensure that the correct one is being used; that it is properly installed and secured; that it is not flipped over with bottom-side up; and that one is not stacked over another.

The automaker advised any drivers who experience a situation in which the accelerator won’t release to do the following:

-- First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.

-- If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do not pump the brake pedal repeatedly, as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.

-- Shift the transmission gear selector to the neutral position, and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.

-- If unable to put the vehicle in neutral, turn the engine off, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.

-- If the vehicle is equipped with an engine start/stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do not tap the button.

-- If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do not remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.

In 2007, Toyota conducted a safety recall on all-weather floor mats for late-model Camry and ES 350 models, due to the potential that the accessories could interfere with the cars’ accelerator pedals if improperly used, according

to the automaker.

Information on proper floor-mat installation can be found online at https:// and