State Farm Insurance holds a unique position. As the nation's largest home & auto insurance company, its data from insurance claims can sometimes reveal product defects years ahead of a recall.

That was case over a decade ago, when Firestone tires on certain Ford vehicles, including the Ford Explorer, experienced a very high failure rate. When the tires blew apart, the vehicles sometimes rolled over. State Farm, seeing claims that showed this pattern of tire trouble, sounded the alarm to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which was slow to act until the issue reached a crisis point.

State Farm says its information can help NHTSA confirm a trend it already sees or spot a new one.

So in light of Toyota's massive vehicle recall due to sticking gas pedals, I wondered if State Farm had seen related claims.

"State Farm has received inquiries about alleged unwanted acceleration problems in Toyota and Lexus vehicles in recent years," said spokesperson Dick Luedke.

"We track claim data and voluntarily share that data with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In this case, State Farm notified NHTSA on a number of occasions, starting in February 2004, about an increase in situations involving alleged unwanted acceleration in Toyotas."

Luedke continues, "We do encourage our auto claims representatives to – when they have a claim involving an alleged failure – notify our claims research group, which in turn contacts NHTSA when appropriate."

But State Farm can't be the policeman of auto safety -- that's NHTSA's job. If NHTSA would act sooner on data for certain trends, we'd save time, money and lives.

A hearing by a House Energy and Commerce committee on Feb. 25 will address how quickly Toyota and NHTSA responded to consumer complaints about the gas pedals.