A cruise control system is a modern convenience that automatically maintains the same speed of an automobile. In long drives through sparsely populated roads, using a cruise control system usually results in better fuel efficiency. It can also help some drivers who are prone to increase their speed over long stretches to avoid speeding tickets.
There are, however, some disadvantages to using cruise control. The vehicle may go over its cruise control setting, for instance, on a downhill steep enough to accelerate the vehicle despite an idling engine. A skillful driver may also be able to achieve even greater fuel efficiencies by taking the approaching terrain into account. Not having to maintain constant pedal pressure can contribute to inducing highway hypnosis. And stepping on the brake to disengage the cruise control on wet or ice-covered roads can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
But when a cruise control system is defective, the potentially catastrophic, if not fatal consequences to the unsuspecting occupants of the vehicle are all the more tragic. Many cruise control accident investigations have led to a malfunction in the vehicle's computer as the cause. But while a few cases of sudden unintended acceleration have been blamed on driver error, the vast majority of cruise control accidents are now attributed to faulty workmanship and design by auto manufacturers.
A recent example of a cruise control failure that led to personal injury litigation involved the vehicle of a family on a road trip. With the cruise control engaged, the car began to accelerate on its own, quickly reaching 90 miles per hour before crashing and rolling over. The family was ejected from the vehicle and suffered a range of serious injuries from spinal fractures, paraplegia, quadriplegia, brain damage, and death. It was subsequently found that poorly designed speed control sensors and wiring had led to the vehicle's sudden acceleration.
The Ford Motor Company recently announced a recall of 3.6 million vehicles over reports that cruise control deactivation switches did not respond in some cases. The recall is to cover over a dozen models of passenger cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles built from 1992-2004. Previously, the automaker had recalled nearly six million vehicles over concerns of reports that the cruise control switch had caused fires.
Vehicles with design problems that have led to cruise control accidents and other problems include:
- 1992-1997 BMW
- Chevrolet Caprice and Chevrolet Van
- Ford (various models including Aero Star mini van, Crown Victoria, Explorer, F150 pickup and Taurus)
- Lincoln Town Car and Mark VII
- Mercedes Benz
- Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
- Toyota Corolla
- Yamaha Motorcycles
If a defective or malfunctioning cruise control led to a motor vehicle accident, you may be eligible to compensation for any resulting injuries or death suffered by you or a loved one. It may be in your best interest to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney who can effectively prosecute automakers who are negligent in, or choose to design, manufacture, or contract out for defective components for use in the vehicles they produce.