Hybrid From Hell: Prius Reportedly Takes Man on 90 MPH Ride on California Highway

Prius drivers have always hoped for a car that could go hundreds miles without stopping. However, they hoped it could stop if they wanted it to. Jim Sikes claims that his Prius suddenly stuck going 90 mph and would not stop — requiring the highway patrol to ride along side and give him advice on how to stop the vehicle. Cases like this reinforce the use of the “Toyota Defense” in criminal cases. The biggest problem is that in a good gas guzzler, he would simply run out of gas. In the Prius, he kept going and going . . .

The highway patrol tried to work him through possible options on the phone but nothing worked. Finally an officer in a patrol car used its public address system to suggest applying the brake while also using the emergency brake. That slowed the car to 50 mph and he was able to shut off the car. What is particularly interesting is that Sikes said that he had brought in the car to the Toyota dealership for the widely advertised fix — only to be told that his car was not on the list and would not be repaired.

While Toyota could still face a lawsuit over the incident, it should make a sizable gift to the California Highway Patrolman’s Fund since they just saved the company a lot of money by avoiding an accident in the case.

For the full story, click here.

45 thoughts on “Hybrid From Hell: Prius Reportedly Takes Man on 90 MPH Ride on California Highway”

  1. Do I suspect passive aggressiveness over here on this very thread?

    Were you there? Does Toyota have the need not to replicate this action? What is the training of the congressional aide?

    Do I smell madness, as in reefer? Smoking so early in the morning. tisk, tisk, tisk….

  2. The incident in Harrison, NY indicates that the driver never pushed the brake pedal.

    “HARRISON, N.Y. — Computer data from a Toyota Prius that crashed in suburban New York City show that at the time of the accident the throttle was open and the driver was not applying the brakes, U.S. safety officials said Thursday.”

    On March 10th at 10:03, I said “It may just be that the driver pushed on the wrong pedal and crashed the car.”

    In California, Toyota is saying that what the driver is claiming is impossible. The NHTSA is agreeing with Toyota.

    “Overseen not only by Toyota field representatives but a Congressional staffer, NHTSA investigators were unable to replicate the behaviors Sikes describes in his car. Pressing hard on the brakes did in fact bring the car to a stop, over multiple tests.

    Indeed, Sikes’ 2008 Toyota Prius has a “smart accelerator” function built into its throttle software: If both the brakes and accelerator are floored, it cuts power to the engine, making it impossible for the accelerator to overpower the brakes.”


    On March 9th at 12:55, I said “There’s something fishy about this story. I’m waiting for “ballon boy” to make an appearance.”

  3. Here’s an excerpt from an article just published in our firm newsletter to clients. Were I Toyota, I would be having corporate some chills about now:

    “The legal stakes are high for Toyota, because it is the first automaker embroiled in major safety issues since tough new criminal penalties became law after 2000’s rollover recalls involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires. The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act for the first time made individuals who intentionally mislead federal regulators about safety defects subject to possible criminal fines and/or prison.

    Toyota revealed last month that a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York subpoenaed documents relating to sudden acceleration in various vehicles and braking issues in the Prius.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the timeliness of Toyota’s reporting of its sudden-acceleration complaints and fixes and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says Toyota could face civil penalties. But the grand jury subpoenas signal that the U.S. attorney for that district has a criminal investigation underway.

    “It is safe to assume they had good reason to issue those subpoenas,” says former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz. “They are well aware of the legal standards they have to meet to prosecute the case.”

    NHTSA has often worked closely with the Justice Department on high-profile safety investigations. Toyota has said it reported “in a timely manner” and is complying with the subpoenas. The Justice Department would not comment.

    Bill Boehly, a former NHTSA enforcement chief, says NHTSA will be assessing whether Toyota should have told the agency sooner than it did about pedals that could stick, causing unintended acceleration, and whether it “provided all the information that was requested in the course of its defect investigations.”

    A trail of documents is being sought from Toyota by investigators in the various probes to discover what safety issues the company was aware of, when they found out about them and what they did in response.

    However, Toyota likely has fewer documents to produce than an automaker might have in the 1990s. The TREAD Act sent such a chill through automakers that car company lawyers and managers began warning their engineers to avoid putting test results or conclusions in writing, according to two people who worked with the major automakers on compliance. They requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    “The reason they don’t put much in writing any more than they can help is they don’t want to disclose the thought process or the design process of their staff,” Savannah, Ga., plaintiff attorney says of automakers. “They’ve had to face that music too many times.”

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