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. Wendell. Thanks for the information. But regarding your not knowing if it it possible or not to shift into neutral while in motion, I would recomend that ASAP is the time to find out in the light of recent events.
    Duh. Quite right about the risk of blowing up an engine, but given the choice of that or crashing at 90, I know which I’d choose. Not too familiar with auto transmissions, but I don’t think that cutting the engine with an auto in gear would offer much in the way of engine braking. Perhaps things may be different if the Pius has one of those gearboxes that locks the transmission when in top gear.

  2. I have a Prius. As has been stated there is no key – the car senses the proximity of a transmitter – so you cannot turn it off. The proper procedure is to hold down the start button for three seconds. Apparently, neither the driver nor the highway patrol guy knew about this. Toyota is not publicizing it because they are denying that this is a problem.

    The other thing is that the gear shift in the Prius is unconventional. As far as I know, it may be impossible to shift into neutral while in motion. From experience, it is very easy to shift into the wrong gear while at rest.

  3. Priusipism

    If your uncontrolled acceleration last from more than four hours, contact your physician.

  4. Perhaps this is what Toyota’s “Moving Forward” slogan really means . . . no brakes!

  5. More research.

    It looks like the Preus is supposed to turn off the engine if the start-button is held depressed for 3 seconds. It’s like a computer. 🙂

  6. If you turned off the ignition while coasting I would be worried about locking the steering column as Duh alluded to as well. I don’t have one of these kinds of cars, so I dont know, but I would imagine that it is an on/off switch and there is no middle switch where the car is on but not running like my 2001 pick up.

    I agree with an earlier poster though, there is something about this story that just does not sound quite right.

  7. Nal said “How hard is it to shift to neutral?”

    Not hard at all (just be careful you don’t go to far and end up in reverse or park). If the gear shift is on the steering column, make sure you put pressure forward while pushing up. This will prevent the shift from going any further than neutral. Many floor shifts offer the same type of protection. Some you push to the left while moving towards park, and others you push down while moving towards park.

    The problem with putting the vehicle into neutral, while the throttle is stuck open, is that the engine will over-speed. This will probably result in damage to the engine, and could create a hazard as it “blows up”. I’ve seen an over-speed condition send a connecting rod thru the engine block.

    If you find yourself in a stuck open throttle condition, it is best to turn off the vehicle while it is still in gear. Just don’t trun the key far enough to lock the steering column.

    Toyota and Lexus offer push-button ignition. The key doesn’t need to be inserted. It just has to be on your person. The car senses its presence. (Que Twilight Zone theme)

  8. From the underlying article:

    “A Toyota spokesman issued a statement Monday night saying the automaker had been notified of the incident.

    “Toyota has dispatched a field technical specialist to San Diego to investigate the report and offer assistance,” the statement said.”


    San Diego? I thought this was a story from the Bonneville Salt Flats.


  9. Personally, I will not purchase a vehicle that doesn’t have a traditional steering column key governing the ignition system.

  10. After doing more research, it’s not that simple. The Prius has a push-button ignition.

    But it still needs a key doesn’t it? How do you turn the car off once you have arrived at your destination. I believe that Toyota had already issued a What To Do List in the event that that happens which included turning the car off and placing the car in neutral and applying the brakes.

  11. Duh/Bdaman:

    A good long stretch of straight highway would be good as well 🙂

  12. After doing more research, it’s not that simple. The Prius has a push-button ignition. I’m not sure what the status of the steering column lock would be after the button is pushed. I did find some information indicating that the driver tried pushing the button, but the engine would not turn off. That’s pretty scary.

    I think it would be a good idea to equip every new vehicle with an emergency ignition kill switch. One that is in no way linked to the steering column. It would need to be protected from inadvertent activation, and easy to reset, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to design.

  13. Duh you are correct. Although the steering would stiffen it would not be difficult. However if it was rack and pinion you’d think you were behind the wheel of a stock car.

  14. Why was it possible to turn off the ignition at 50 mph, but not at 90 mph?

    Turning the key one graduation back does not lock the steering wheel, and steering a vehicle of this size without power assist (if it even has power steering) would not be difficult.

    There’s something fishy about this story. I’m waiting for “ballon boy” to make an appearance.

  15. Was turning off the ignition not an option? (Serious question; I’ve never even been in a Prius.)

  16. Wow. This is a pervasive problem for old Toyota. I didn’t know that a Prius could go 90MPH! I hope Toyota is all paid up on their liability coverage.

Comments are closed.