More than a year and a half after the accelerator on Saige Bloom’s Ford Escape stuck, the Ford Motor Company agreed Thursday to pay the government $17.35 million to settle allegations it failed to conduct a timely recall of the vehicle.
Bloom was driving up from the Valley Jan. 27, 2012 when the accelerator jammed, sending her careening through afternoon traffic. The vehicle rolled north of Walmart as Bloom made a final desperate effort to avoid several cars at a stop light.
Bloom, a well-liked Payson High School junior, died in the crash, but the motorists she swerved to avoid were unharmed.
After the accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into whether the throttle on certain Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute vehicles could stick, causing crashes.
In July 2012, Ford recalled 485,000 2001 to 2004 model year Escapes, an untimely move, the NHTSA concluded and that violates the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.
NHTSA argued that Ford had known about the sticky gas pedals since 2011, but only recalled the vehicles after it began its investigation.
Besides Bloom’s vehicle, the NHTSA received nearly 70 complaints on the Escape, including 13 crashes and nine injuries at the time of the recall.
In its settlement with the NHTSA, Ford denies violating the Safety Act, but agreed to settle “in order to avoid a protracted dispute and possible litigation,” according to online NHTSA documents.
The settlement is the maximum fine the government can impose.