By now everyone knows that Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, has announced the largest safety recall of vehicles in its U.S. history. With a lot of Toyota and Lexus cars and trucks in the Santa Monica area, let’s take a closer look at what this recall really means.

The recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus models is different from the norm in that the vehicle owners — you and me — are being told to make the “fix” by removing the driver’s side floor mat which can get hung-up on the accelerator and race the engine.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Last month, a San Diego man and three passengers were killed in a high-speed crash that the driver, in a call to 911 prior to the accident, said was being caused by a floor mat wedged into the accelerator.”

Toyota said in a statement, “A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death”.

The recall affects all 2007-2010 model year Toyota Camrys, 2005-2010 Toyota Avalons, 2004-2009 Toyota Prius, 2005-2010 Tacomas, 2007-2010 Toyota Tundras, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and 2006-2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350 cars.

If your vehicle is on that list, remove the floor mats on the driver’s side — now — and do not replace them. Remove the mat even if you’ve had no problems with it or it appears to be securely fastened. Remember, we’re talking about the floor mat on top of the carpet, not the carpet itself.

Toyota and Lexus may have their owners bring their affected cars and trucks to dealers, where perhaps a new mat will be installed or some other permanent fix will be available.

But for now, it’s up to you to remove the floor mat, thus removing the danger.

Toyota and Lexus owners should start receiving letters about the recall as soon as next week. If you own one of the listed cars or trucks and for whatever reason don’t receive a letter, don’t make the mistake of assuming your car isn’t involved in the recall.

Recalls are the bane of all carmakers; they are embarrassing, expensive and often remain in the public’s consciousness for a long time.

In a recall done in concert with or at the order of the government, all owners of the affected vehicles must be contacted by the carmaker, a multi-million dollar proposition in itself, and all repair work must be done by authorized dealers at no cost whatsoever to the consumer.

To be honest, I can’t remember another recall where vehicle owners were given instructions on how to remove the danger from their cars and told to do so immediately. Though it’s different, to be sure, Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) must think this is a very serious problem which has to be rectified now, so I’m glad they’re taking this unusual, even radical action.

A visit to the NHTSA Web site, www.NHTSA.gov, offers hours of entertainment for car nuts like me. But for the average person interested in the history of their car or truck, or a used vehicle they might be considering buying, the site lists every recall ordered in the past decade, and it’s easy to use.

The site also lists Technical Service Bulletins, TSBs, which the carmaker sends to their dealers detailing problems which have not been deemed important enough to warrant a recall (at least not yet). These TSBs are often called “secret recalls” because the dealer will fix the problem only if the customer asks for it to be done. A visit to the NHTSA site can arm you with the ammunition to do battle with your dealer if there is a TSB issued about a problem you’re having with your car.

Apart from visiting the NHTSA site (and bookmarking it if you think about cars more than five times daily), the best thing to do if you have any questions about this 3.8-million vehicle recall is to call your Toyota or Lexus dealer. Keep in mind they’re going to be inundated with calls the next few weeks, so be patient with them.

Steve Parker is a two-time Emmy Award-winner who has covered the world’s auto industry and motor racing for over 35 years. He created, writes and moderates the only all-automotive blog on The Huffington Post at www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-parker. Parker hosts live one-hour automotive and motor racing call-in radio shows each Saturday and Sunday at 5 p.m. on www.TalkRadioOne.com. Contact Steve through his own automotive issues Web site at www.SteveParker.com.