A nonprofit consumer safety group is pressing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate complaints surrounding 320,000 Ford Escapes model year 2002 through 2004 that could be subject to unintended acceleration following an earlier recall.
In an official petition filed with NHTSA today, the Center for Automotive Safety (CAS) said the problem could have potentially lethal consequences. It seems the issue stems from work done when a recall was issued for 470,000 Escapes of the same model year to keep the accelerator cable from snagging on the pedal, which could prevent the car from returning to idle.
At the time, Ford circulated a technical service bulletin advising dealer mechanics not to damage the adjacent cruise control cable while performing the work. The petition says any damage to the cable could cause the cable to catch on a ridge in the engine cover, leading to unintended acceleration.
Performing a search on the NHTSA site reveals a long list of complaints about the issue where Escape owners say they experienced the problem first hand.
One 2002 Escape owner wrote in a complaint filed with the agency that the gas pedal wouldn’t release, and had to be pulled manually. At that point, the driver says the car continued to accelerate and that the brakes didn’t seem to work. Finally at around 70 mph, the driver shifted the car to neutral, applied the emergency brake and coasted to a stop while the engine continued to run at 6,000 rpm.
The owner went on to say that Ford didn’t admit to any problems with the vehicle, but that he found many similar complaints online.
Included in the petition, the CAS also pointed to the death of Saige Bloom, a 17-year-old driver who was involved in a fatal crash last January. The document says Bloom’s family hired an expert who examined the 2002 Escape and found the cable has been caught.
This won’t be the first time a petition by the CAS spurs NHTSA action if the petition succeeds. In 2009, the group pushed for an investigation over fires occurring in 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees after rear-end collisions. The request was granted in 2010, and most recently was upgraded to an engineering analysis.