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North Carolina mystery: Defective car or negligent driver?

It is a nearly 200-mile drive west from Raleigh to get to Boone. The town in the Blue Ridge Mountains was named for Daniel Boone, but is also known as the home of bluegrass legend Doc Watson. The town of about 17,000 residents made news recently after a series of motor vehicle accidents revived memories of Toyota’s defective product scandal involving unintended acceleration several years ago.

Boone’s police chief has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate the crashes involving a rented Lexus. The 83-year-old Lexus driver said he was driving to his Boone vacation home when the car’s engine surged as he came to a red light. The unintended acceleration caused the Lexus to hit eight vehicles before coming to a stop on its side, the driver said.

A Boone police officer said the driver told him that when he “mashed the brake,” the vehicle would not stop. “It wouldn’t slow down,” the officer said the driver told him. “And actually the engine accelerated.”

The driver would not discuss the crashes with a reporter who contacted him.

Law enforcement officials didn’t write any tickets for the driver, said to be a former airline pilot.

The Lexus dealer that rented the vehicle said the car’s black box data showed that nothing was mechanically wrong with it.

Police said the Lexus dealer asked them not to analyze the data, fearing that they might accidentally erase or corrupt the data.

Were these crashes the result of mechanical or software failure in the vehicle, or were they the result of driver error? We do not yet know the answer to that question.

Those who suffer injuries because of a defective product or negligent driver can speak with attorneys experienced in both product liability and personal injury litigation at O'Malley Tunstall PLLC.

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