Feds excluded most severe cases of runaway Toyotas

According to a new report, federal safety investigators allegedly agreed to exclude only the most severe cases of "runaway Toyotas" after the intervention of a former safety official, since hired to be a Washington, D.C. representative for Toyota.

According to a new investigation by ABC News, the 2004 federal investigation of computer-based throttle problems never reviewed any cases where the unintended sudden acceleration lasted more than one to two seconds - or any cases in which the driver attempted to brake. Because of these odd protocols, essentially any high-speed cases were completely ruled out from federal investigation.

Since the 2004 investigation, there have been five other similar investigations with the same limitations placed on federal probing. The most recent case involved a Lexus model with unintended and uncontrollable acceleration in 2007.

Edgar Heiskell, an attorney filing a suit against Toyota regarding a deadly Camry crash which took place in Detroit, said, "It's beyond explanation. I have not seen an explanation that makes sense."

According to internal memos and court testimony analyzed by ABS News investigators, the investigations were extremely limited in their scope, that is, after negotiations involving former safety inspector-turned Toyota representative.

According to a 2004 NHTSA memo, "Longer durations incidents involving uncontrollable accelerations" were deemed to be "not within the scope of the investigation."

According to ABC News, that memo was written on March 23, 2004, not long after Scott Yon, a NHTSA official, met with two former NHTSA colleagues that now work for Toyota, including Chris Santucci, who left NHTSA six months prior, according to his testimony.

"We discussed the scope, " Santucci testified. "I think it worked out well for both the agency and for Toyota."