Revolving Door: From US Safety Agency to Toyota Representative

In addition to excluding longer duration sudden acceleration episodes, the safety agency also ruled out any case in which the brake pedal had been applied.

A document submitted by Toyota to the safety agency confirmed it would not submit any reports "in which the customer alleged that they could not control a vehicle by applying the brake."

"Of course, our client who went from a very low speed to almost 80 miles an hour would have lasted more than one or two seconds and there's strong evidence she was trying to apply the brakes," said Heiskell. "So by the NHTSA Toyota standard of what was to be submitted, that would not have even been considered."

There was no immediate comment from the safety agency. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has praised NHTSA for its efforts to hold "Toyota's feet to the fire."

Editor's Note: On March 2, 2010, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood testified that his department had investigated the actions of Santucci and another former NHTSA investigator hired by Toyota and determined that they did not violate federal conflicts law. The law prohibits former executive branch employees from representing a matter under the employee's previous official responsibility for two years after leaving government service. Secretary LaHood told Congress: "Everything that we can tell at this point is that they did work for Toyota and they did talk to people at DOT, but not in an area where they were responsible. … I'm saying that our review of it, it does not appear that they were engaged in activities that they were prohibited by law from engaging in." (Read more about Secretary LaHood's statements to Congress here and here.) Mr. Santucci has testified in court litigation that he worked on two Toyota matters during his employment at NHTSA, but neither involved sudden acceleration.

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