Federal regulators reviewing Bristol couple’s case

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — New developments in a Target 12 Consumer Investigation. Monday we learned U.S. safety regulators are looking into a Bristol couple’s petition alleging that older Toyota Corollas can accelerate unexpectedly at low speeds and cause crashes.

If you are a Corolla owner, you are going to want to watch this case closely. Right now, federal safety regulators are acknowledging they’re reviewing 141 similar complaints from Corolla owners to see whether a full investigation is warranted.

Bob and Kathy Ruginis from Bristol reached out to the Target 12 Investigators last month after they claimed their 2010 Corolla experienced several unintended acceleration incidents with the most recent ending in a low-speed crash.

“It was an awkward feeling, I knew my foot was on the brake and the car was accelerating…I had absolutely no control,” Kathy said.

The couple filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking the agency to investigate low-speed surging in model year 2006-2010 Toyota Corolla vehicles. On Monday, the couple learned the federal agency will review their petition under the office of defects investigation. In a statement to Target 12, the NHTSA said, “The agency has received the petition, is reviewing its merits, and will take appropriate action as necessary.”

The Office of Defects Investigation acknowledges there are 141 similar complaints from Corolla owners within those model years, alleging: “Brakes fail to stop the vehicle in time to prevent a crash.”

Bob Ruginis said Monday’s decision by federal safety regulators is a step in the right direction.

“With the speed they’ve done all of this I’m very optimistic they are looking out for the consumer and want to find out what is causing this low speed accelerations.”

Toyota tells Target 12 that in this case they believe the low-speed crash was caused by “late braking” and not sudden unintended acceleration. In response to Monday’s new developments, Toyota tells Target 12 that they “… will cooperate fully with any inquiry.”

The Ruginis’s told Target 12 that NHTSA will be leasing their car for one month so that its engineers can take a closer look at their Corolla – a move that is met with some skepticism.

Sean Kane, President of Safety Research and Strategies, said “for them to take this car, I’m optimistic but at the end of the day there’s a political aspect of it too, you’ve got the very same people now being asked to investigate something that they said there was no problem with in the past 10 years.”

Visit safercar.gov to file a complaint against any auto manufacturer. To file a complaint against Toyota specifically, email David Kelly at toyotamonitor@cahill.com. Kelly is the newly court-appointed monitor to oversee how Toyota responds to customer complaints.


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