Another Day, Another Report of a Runaway Prius

Posted: March 11, 2010

Sarah Connor warned us that one day the machines would rise up.  Maybe they have.

Autoblog reports, "Not one day after a high-profile incident involving a Prius taking off on its owner in Southern California, we're hearing reports that another one of Toyota's popular hybrids has suffered unintended acceleration in New York."

According to the Detroit Free Press, "A woman smashed into a stone wall this morning because of a stuck accelerator on a Toyota Prius, Harrison police said. The 56-year-old driver suffered non-life threatening injuries, acting Chief Anthony Marraccini said. The woman was pulling out of the driveway at 3700 Purchase St. facing forward when the accelerator stuck, police said.  The car 'shot' across the street smashing into a stone wall, Marraccini said."

Kicking Tires writes, "Police there said they’ve almost ruled out the floormat as the cause of the accident because it was tied to the seat base with plastic ties. That was an early fix that Toyota dealers installed while they waited for a more permanent solution to the problem." Kicking Tires adds, "That permanent solution still seems to be in the works for the Prius models. Other models such as the Camry have already received extensive retrofits, including shortening the accelerator pedal and adding a brake override system. Toyota says its solutions for the floormat recall — initiated last fall — are rolling in nature, meaning that some models, like the Prius, still don’t have fixes in place." Still, Kicking Tires comments, "with all the scrutiny involving congressional hearings, it’s a bit of a shock that so much work remains to be done."

Not everyone is convinced that the case of the California Prius is all its cracked up to be, however. Inside Line has tackled the question in their "Was This Prius Really 'Out of Control'?" feature.

In it, Inside Line goes straight through the report from James Sikes, the driver of the Prius. According to Inside Line, Sikes "basically claimed that he pressed the gas to pass someone and 'then the thing just jumped and kept going.'" Inside Line then says, "For one, anybody that has ever driven a Prius knows that it never ‘jumps’ forward no matter how hard you press the pedal. It ability to accelerate is so modest that we find it hard to believe that anyone would be startled by its thrust."

They also point out, "This driver not only had time to call the police after it ‘ran out of control,’ he managed to drive the car for another 20 minutes until the police showed up. How out of control could the car have been if he was driving on a busy highway for nearly half an hour?" Inside Line also notes that the California Highway Patrol never used a patrol car to slow the Prius down, as reports had indicated (instead, the Patrol Officer used a loudspeaker to direct Sikes to use the brakes and the emergency brake).  Inside Line also disputed Sikes' claim that he couldn't shift the Prius into neutral, providing a video that shows putting a Prius into neutral at high speeds is not only possible, but easy (provided, of course, you aren't panicking).

Inside Line's piece raises interesting questions about the recent incidents involving the Prius.  In both cases, Toyota has dispatched personnel to investigate the matter.

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company's recent troubles affect our rankings. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.

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