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Brake-based gas pedal override may be required, traffic official says

WASHINGTON — The government may require automakers to include brake systems that can override the gas pedal in response to Toyota's massive recalls, auto safety officials told Congress on Thursday.

David Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in prepared remarks to a House panel that his agency may require the override systems, a fix intended to prevent the type of runaway car incidents that some Toyota drivers have described. It ensures that a driver stepping on the brakes can slow their vehicle even if the gas pedal is malfunctioning.

Requiring the system could "substantially reduce the most dangerous kinds of sudden acceleration," Strickland said.

Congress was holding a hearing to examine the agency's oversight of the auto industry in the latest congressional review linked to Toyota's recall of about 8.5 million vehicles worldwide.

Safety groups have accused the agency of being too cozy with the Japanese automaker while lacking the resources to test for vehicle problems that could be electronic, not mechanical.

"NHTSA has been viewed by the motor vehicle industry for years as a lapdog, not a watchdog," said Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator.

Brake-based gas pedal override may be required, traffic official says 03/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 9:51pm]

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