Floor Mats Implicated in Car AccidentsDec 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
More and more, automobile floor mats have been found to be the culprit in a number of car accidents. According to a new report in Newsday, at least one million vehicle recalls have been linked to floor mats “that are poorly designed, improperly used, or both” over the past quarter century.
The most recently reported crash by Newsday involved a driver losing control of his vehicle because of a “bunched-up” floor mat that sent his vehicle into a storefront holiday party on Long Island injuring a number of people. According to police, the mat in Theodore Saretsky’s BMW X3 became jammed beneath the brake and above the gas pedals. Apparently, the driver was trying to brake, but because the mat was also pressing on the gas pedal, the car rammed into the Hanukkah party, injuring eight children—aged one through eight—and six adults. A BMW spokesman—Tom Kowaleski—told Newsday that all BMWs are equipped with mats that contain Velcro that is supposed to firmly fasten the mat to the car’s floor.
Last year, AutoUnleashed, reported that there were approximately 40 complaints concerning all-weather floor-mats in certain vehicles not being secured and slipping under the acceleration pedal. The problems caused eight crashes and injured 12 people at the time of the AutoUnleashed report, which noted that the problem involved floor mats sold with the Lexus ES 350 and the 2007/08 Toyota Camry. The Lexus ES 350 poses a unique problem in that the vehicle is engaged via push-button ignition, said AutoUnleashed, which means it cannot be stopped by turning the key.
At the time, AutoUnleashed strongly suggested that owners of the Toyota Prius, Avalon, RAV4, and Tacoma check those floor mats as well. AutoRecalls also reported that about 1,700 of certain models of the 2007 Mazda Speed 3 were recalled because certain vehicles were equipped with optional all-weather floor mats which provided “insufficient clearance between” the mat and the accelerator pedal and that this might cause the pedal to became stuck behind the mat resulting in improper deceleration and increasing crash risk.
The police have not confirmed to Newsday the type of floor mat involved in the holiday accident and if it was or was not properly fastened. The driver was treated at a hospital and released; however, two children remain in critical, but stable condition at Long Island’s Nassau University Medical Center; three other children—all under five years of age—were treated and released from Winthrop-University Hospital, said Newsday.
Newsday explained that mat-related automobile accidents have resulted from a number of problems in mats made by a variety of makers, including pedals sticking to mats or mats “interfering” with one or more of the pedals. Newsday noted that in 2006 a driver in Washington State was hurt when his car crashed into a ditch after the floor mat became wedged on the gas pedal. Also that year, a boy was hospitalized and his sister died in Canada after their mother lost control of the car, said Newsday, which reported that police said the mat was most likely to blame. In another mat-related accident, a truck—when the driver was attempting to back out of a parking spot—careened down a hill in Rhode Island and through a wall of a home, said Newsday.