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. There are some videos at the bottom of this page.

    The reverse idea can be found here.

    May not be the kind of documentation you’re looking for.

  2. Nal
    I read my manual cover to cover 3 years ago when I got my Prius. I don’t remember reading about shifting into Park or Reverse while the car is moving (or while still). I’m not disputing your post, just asking where it’s documented. I’d like to review that. I also never thought about going thru a carwash. I’ve always washed it myself. With our recent heavy snows, I’m thinking about a carwash this weekend.

  3. You can also put it into R. The computer puts it into neutral more quickly than the tap and hold method above.

  4. (1) Can one put the Prius into neutral while it is driving: Of course. It’s easy–just press the Park button and it will go into neutral. No muss no fuss. The parking pawl is only engaged if the the park button is pressed when the speed is less than 7 mph.


    The car must be in the ready mode, and instead of just tapping the joystick as one does to put it in reverse or drive, tap and hold it on neutral for a second or so. The car will stay in neutral for the entire time it is being washed. The reason the car has this feature is so you don’t accidentally bump the joystick while driving, and throw yourself into neutral. They thought of everything!

  5. Jeff N said
    * You can shift into neutral or hit the park button (which will beep at you and put you in neutral) while the Prius is in motion at high speed even if the accelerator is pressed at the same time.

    Not so, as far as shifting into neutral is concerned…the shift lever (very small on the dash) returns to the “home” position (X in my earlier post) after shifting into Drive. So there’s NO NEUTRAL to shift into.

    Yes, “B” is for downshifting into low gear when descending a steep hill.

  6. JAR.

    This “B” position on the shifter. Would that be similar to the “L” position on the old Ford C4 auto box? This position would lock the transmission into low gear so that engine braking could be used to slow the car when descending a steep hill.

  7. I drive an 07 Prius. The gear shift is on the dash & the gears are in this pattern:

    D B

    After shifting into Reverse or Drive the lever automatically returns to the X position. “B” is for Brake…downshifting for mountain driving. I haven’t heard of anyone shifting to B…that seems to me to be a logical option.

    The keyless system doesn’t automatically start the car when you enter. You have to press the Power button with your foot on the brake to start the engine. If your foot isn’t on the brake you just turn on the accessories; radio, etc. When you press the Power button to turn off the engine the car is automatically put into Park. There’s also a separate Park button on the dash which does not turn off the engine.

    The problem seems to me to be electrical, else if the engine was indeed turned off by the Power button, it would go into Park & “rip out the guts” of the Park mechanism. That would certainly be better than crashing at 90mph. Toyota would certainly have a lawsuit if they wouldn’t cover repairs.

  8. J Smith.

    Sorry to go a little off topic, but if you want a high gas milage car, surely almost any of the 2 litre turbo diesels from europe will do.
    I would worry about the maintainence costs of hybrids as they get older even taking into cosideration the fact that Japanese cars are generally very reliable in the long term. The hybrid just seems overly complex.
    I currently run a ford mondeo station wagon. 2.2 litre turbo diesel, returns 38mpg around town and in the stop/start commute to and from work. Cruising at 90 to 110mph returns over 40mpg.
    Before that I had the Seat Leon 2 litre TDI – same engine as in the Volksvagens and Skodas. That one was a bit of a “license loser”!

  9. This story doesn’t make much sense:

    * If you press the brake it will completely disable the accelerator on the Prius until you release the brake pedal. Toyota is already promising this feature for all their non-hybrid cars in the future.

    The CHP officer said he smelled burning brakes after the car was stopped but this may have just been the emergency brakes on the rear wheels.

    * You can shift into neutral or hit the park button (which will beep at you and put you in neutral) while the Prius is in motion at high speed even if the accelerator is pressed at the same time.

    The driver apparently never tried this because he was too panicked or had put down the phone .

    * As someone else noted earlier, you can turn off the engine without locking the steering wheel by holding down the “Power” button for 3 seconds.

  10. Anonymously Yours:
    No, I would not credit “government” that sophistication. All I’m saying is either this is a staged incident, or there are more incredibly stupid people in California than I previously thought, meaning not only the driver, but the CHP, media, pundits et al. I mean, holy crap, you have enough time to do all the things reported in the story, but nobody has the common sense to shift to neutral?

  11. I own a first year Prius which after all this time, I don’t think is included as part of the problem. I am so angered though that this happened with the Prius hybrid. This is the direction America should be going in. A high gas milage vehicle without sacrificing space (as in the Mini Cooper or Smart Car – which is anything BUT!!) This doesn’t just set hybrid cars back but it sets America back.

  12. You can practice placing the transmission into neutral when stopped at a stop light. It’s good for the transmission too.

    I don’t think two-footed driving is a good suggestion, even from a safety point of view. The two-footed technique is more complicated, requiring coordination between both legs.

  13. AY,

    I heard about the incident in NY. That vehicle already had the floor mat ties installed.

    It may just be that the driver pushed on the wrong pedal and crashed the car. If that is what really happened, it would still probably be blamed on Toyota.

  14. You can’t harm the engine by using full throttle. A rev limiter will kill the ignition so that the engine speed drops to a lower limit temporarily, then picks up again until the limiter kicks in, over and over.
    I f you drive an automatic transmission vehicle, now’s the time to rehearse shifting into neutral WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SHIFTER. It could take several tries to train yourself. Also train any other user of the vehicle.
    It’s also time to train yourself to drive two-footed. You then can’t mistakenly mash the gas instead of the brake when panic sets in. You could notice a small increase in fuel mileage, as your right foot will be in place to gently roll onto the pedal instead of retraining itself every time it moves over onto the pedal, causing jerky, gas wasting starts. You could also find that there are times when you see some erratic behavior and want to keep your speed up but be ready for an emergency. Now, your left foot can hover over the brake, ready to give it a tap to disconnect the cruise or slow suddenly. Result: better reaction times, which could save yourself.
    Your life, your problem. Yours and mine together because you were too slow or confused: my problem.
    First rule of accidents according to my PI attorney bud: DON’T HAVE THEM.

  15. Bob L,

    So you are suggesting that the US government has something to do with Toyota’s issues? I guess it possible to slip in a few maligned parts to help US sales of American made vehicles. But why?

  16. A killswitch, like on jet-skis and snowmowbiles-that’s your fix. Or phase out the automatic transmission.

  17. Car & Driver recently did a test, and found that, on all Toyota vehicles, the brakes will overpower the engine. There is, indeed, something a little fishy about this story: the driver has enough time to contact CHP, who have enough time to respond, and tell the driver (bad) instructions over loudspeakers, and through all this, nobody has the sense to shift to neutral? (by the way, virtually every computer-controlled vehicle now has over-revving logic to prevent serious engine damage). Sounds more like a publicity stunt by Government Motors.

  18. According to the news, the California man took it in based upon a recall notice and the dealer told him that it was not on the recall list.

    In another story a person from NY had the same problem yesterday as well.

  19. So, if the car is on when the transmitter is in proximity to the vehicle, what happens if you chuck the transmitter out the window while chugging along at 94 mph? Will the vehicle shut down?

  20. I see that there is thoughtful and rational debate on this issue,but I don’t think “homeboy” was in a position to do either.

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