How common is it for an accelerator to become "stuck"?

I’ve been having an argument with… okay… myself; regarding Mr. James Sikes and the now-widely publicized incident involving the '08 Toyota Prius on a California Interstate whose accelerator had allegedly become ‘stuck’.

How common of an occurrence is this? Is the mass hysteria I’m perceiving over this incident justified? Are all Prius (or Priuses) rolling time bombs? or has public opinion just been swayed by all of the media coverage?

Call me cynical, but this gentleman’s vehicle year wasn’t even included in the recall. Isn’t it even the least bit peculiar that this vehicle would just happen to suddenly exhibit the precise symptoms of later models in the immediate wake of the recall and all of the publicity?

I smell someone trying to cash in on his 15 minutes of fame, the recent Toyota recalls, and get a new set of wheels in the process.



You may be correct.
Or, it is possible that problems other than floor mats and defective pedal materials are the cause of some of the unintended acceleration/stuck gas pedal incidents.

In his testimony before Congress, the president of Toyota Motor Sales USA stated that he could not guarantee that the current recalls would resolve all accelerator problems on Toyota products. He was asked if electronic problems were the source of the accelerator issue, and he replied that he did not believe electronic problems caused these incidents. However, if he is not confident that the current recalls will resolve the issue, that leaves the question of exactly what he and his Toyota cohorts think may be the underlying problem. Not exactly confidence inspiring, IMHO.

Also, consider some other facts regarding this entire issue:

>Some people have pointed to the lack of recalls in Japan as evidence that the problem exists only on US-manufactured Toyotas. However, the concept of Consumer Protection laws is truly in its infancy in Japan. Even dangerously contaminated food products are allowed to remain on the market in Japan, due to an incredibly pro-business environment that does not take protection of consumers into account.

In one high-profile case, a Japanese Toyota owner was told by Tokyo police that her wrecked vehicle could not be released from impound until she signed a statement that she had inadvertantly floored her gas pedal. The pro-business/anti-consumer environment in Japan is so prevasive as to cause some people to believe that Japanese officials are part of an orchestrated coverup of Toyota problems.

>Despite the presence of “black boxes” (to collect data relating to crashes) in Toyota automobiles, Toyota does not allow their proprietary software that is needed to download and interpret that data to be released to any parties, even upon subpoena. There have been numerous accident cases in the US where plaintiffs sought access to the data stored on the black box in their Toyota, only to be rebuffed. In several cases, Toyota made out-of-court settlements with plaintiffs, rather than allow the data stored in these “black boxes” to be introduced into evidence in a court of law.

As is typical of out-of-court settlements, the plaintiffs are not allowed to disclose the details of their settlement. In other words, they were paid by Toyota for their accident losses if they agreed to keep “black box” data from being made a part of the court record. If you don’t think that this situation smells like week-old fish, then you are more trusting than I am.

>Toyota is the only car manufacturer that employs two former NHTSA executives to interact with current NHTSA employees. NHTSA has actually been investigating uncontrolled acceleration issue with Toyota vehicles since 2000. However, those investigations were cut short following conferences between Toyota’s former NHTSA employees and current NHTSA staff.

I firmly believe that Toyota has circled their wagons and is trying to figure out how to approach a situation that they have tried to ignore and that has now blown up in their corporate face. Yes, there may well be some Toyota owners who are trying to jump on the bandwagon and who are creating issues where none exist. However, that should not distract investigators from the issue at hand, namely:

[b]What did Toyota know and when did they know it, regarding accelerator problems?

What problem(s) really cause unintended acceleration in Toyota products, possibly going back as far as 10 years?[/b]

There’s no way to know what was going on inside this Prius, because apparently the driver was alone in the car. He may have had a legitimate problem and he may not have. We may never know.

I’d like to know why he didn’t shift the transmission to neutral. If he was aware of the problem he also should have been aware of all the advice about what to do in such a situation, and the first step is “Shift to neutral.”

In addition, the brakes WILL stop the car, even if the throttle is stuck open.

Funny how he was able to shut off the engine once the car slowed a bit, isn’t it?

This one really doesn’t pass the smell test.

This is a free pass for any Prius driver who wants to speed and get away with it. “Officer, the throttle was stuck. I swear.”

In another thread (there must be at least 15 Toyota “acceleration” threads at this point), someone recently stated that late-model Toyotas do not have a mechanical connection between the shift lever and the transmission, meaning that all shift functions are electronically-controlled. I don’t know whether that statement is accurate, but if it is, that could possibly explain the instances where people claimed that they were unable to shift to neutral.

Like you, I am suspicious. However, I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that none of us knows everything that is connected with these alleged problems. Whether Toyota corporate knows everything about the problem is something that only Toyota is aware of at this point.

I personally have a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that he had the wherewithal to call 911 but never even thought about simply switching off the ignition, or is the Prius so computer controlled that the ignition switch serves only to boot up the computer?

My motorcycle has a kill switch on the right handlebar, maybe that’s an idea for car makers to adapt.

Accelerator pedals have been sticking for years. I remember, as a kid, riding with my mother in the 1939 Chevrolet when the accelerator stuck. She depressed the clutch and we coasted off the road. The car wasn’t recalled, a mechanic from a filling station a block away walked down and replaced the spring. I think the charge was less than $1. In those days back in the 1940’s, we didn’t have cell phones or a 911 number to call. I don’t think GM ever recalled the 1939 Chevrolets for this problem, nor did we have National Highway and Traffic Administration to report the incident.

I believe the “event” was staged. As previously noted stuck accelerators have been around as long as accelerators have been on vehicles. Aftermarket floormats have caused this condition for decades. Broken carburetor throttle springs have also caused stuck accelerators because the throttle usually went “wide open”. Double springs cut down on the frequency of accidents but did not eliminate them. This is mass hysteria. Even if transmissions could not be shifted to neutral (I have my doubts) then the driver could always turn off the ignition. I know for a fact that the Prius is equipped with an ignition switch. I’ve seen them…I’ve touched them… and I have operated them.

The Prius has push button start/stop. You have to hold the button for several seconds to shut off the engine, and apparently people are stabbing quickly at the button instead of holding it down. Panic.

I realize it’s all electronically controlled, but if you can’t shift to neutral whenever you choose, I’d say that’s a really good reason not to own a Prius. Or any other car with a similar “feature.”

I am suspicious about this report. The Prius doesn’t have enough power to overpower the brakes…

But I also believe Toyota doesn’t have this problem solved yet. A sticky accelerator pedal the way they’ve described it happening would not cause a vehicle to accelerate out of control. Then there are the reports that owners cannot get their cars to shift to neutral (this guy is not the only one - one woman testified to this before congress)…

But before anyone dismisses this mans story completely, npr’s database of unintended acceleration complaints shows the Prius as having abnormally high rates of complaints starting in the 2004 model year. For the 2003 and earlier (first generation), the Prius had a statistically insignificant number of complaints - a very enviable record.

The 2004-2009 Prius was recalled, but not for the accelerator pedal… just for the floormat.

Everyone is looking for early retirement and legions of lawyers are waiting to join them at the expense of those with deep pockets. Insurance fraud was INVENTED in California…

Standing on the brake pedal will stop ANY car, even with the throttle stuck wide open.

I suspect the era of electronically controlled throttles (fly-by-wire) will be short indeed…

I am suspicious about this report. The Prius doesn’t have enough power to overpower the brakes…

Unless you don’t have power brakes anymore because there is no more vacuum.

There is almost zero manifold vacuum at full throttle so a throttle stuck wide open may bring about the same loss of power braking that switching off the engine does.

Anyone remember vacuum windshield wipers and how they slowed to a near stop when climbing a hill?

I don’t see anyway that the Prius could use vacuum for power brakes. The gas engine does not even run all the time. The power boost for the brake must come from an electric pump.

According to the guy in the office next to me who bought a new Prius, you CANNOT shift it to neutral while it is accelerating. The system won’t let you. Whether that is the case or not in other Toys I can’t say but the Prius is a special animal. Not even sure if a fuel pump kill switch would work on that one which is what I would do if I owned a Toyota.

Also let’s not forget that other makes have also had the same problem and the manufacturers have been equally unable to find a cause or have not looked very hard. The talk show host Bruce Williams had that experience three times with his Chrysler Sebring or whatever before putting it up on blocks and taking CC to court. My DIL also related this happened with her VW Beetle on the freeway. About a 2004 before it was traded and my son was a witness. Anything electronic can short out etc. and malfunction so we ought to devise some other fail safe way to slow a run-away vehicle regardless of make.

Quote: I suspect the era of electronically controlled throttles (fly-by-wire) will be short indeed… Unquote.

Good point and I agree that the electronically controlled throttle may go the way of the seat belt starter interlock if the brake application interlock feature does not meet expectations. Electronically controlled throttles may suit the car makers but the car buying public may rebel. We have two non-Toyota cars with electric throttle control and now I wonder when it’s our turn for them to fail. Electronically controlled brakes should be a non-starter.

"Electronically controlled brakes should be a non-starter"
Guess what. The Prius brakes are electronically controlled. They have to be to allow the regenerative braking to work.

“Standing on the brake pedal will stop ANY car, even with the throttle stuck wide open.”

I agree. Braking is easier when it is power assisted, but it can still be done without power assist.

I’m not sure how common it is, but it is a situation that every driver should be prepared to contend with, like a flat tire, dead battery, recovering from a skid, etc. Not that it’s acceptable for gas pedals to stick on new vehicles.

My first car used to do this all the time. If I couldn’t just lift up the pedal with my foot, I’d turn off the ignition and coast to the side of the road, then open the hood and ‘unstick’ it. This was a 70s Cadillac weighing over 2.5 tons and I could still steer and brake it with no problem when the power steering was off and the brake booster ran out of vacuum. To be fair, it never suddenly accelerated like it was possessed, just the gas pedal would stick once in a while.

People need to RTFM (read the manual) and have some basic understanding of how to operate their cars. But I’ve always been kind of a gearhead and a technophile, so it probably comes easier to me than ‘aunt Thelma’.

Lets not forget the wonderful Cruise Control…Should this device malfunction or be fed a false but real engage signal, those buttons on the steering wheel must be going through a “clock-spring” like a lot of other stuff, the surprised motorist can not be expected to react in a rational way. Getting these faults to repeat can be next to impossible given the nature of the beast.

Litigation up the WaaaZooo…

Very interesting post, VDC.