Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

More mayhem


(CNN) – The driver of a Toyota Prius says he was taken on a wild ride Monday after the car’s accelerator became stuck, reaching speeds in excess of 90 mph on a winding, hilly portion of a southern California interstate.

It took the California Highway Patrol to bring the car safely to a stop.

The driver, Jim Sikes, said he was traveling east on Interstate 8 outside of the San Diego area when he attempted to pass a slower vehicle.

“I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car, and it just did something kind of funny … and it just stuck there,” he said at a news conference outside a Highway Patrol office. “As I was going, I was trying the brakes … and it just kept speeding up.”

Sikes said he called 911 for help, and dispatchers talked him through instructions on how he might be able to stop the car. But nothing worked.

At one point, Sikes said he reached down to try to pull the accelerator up, but it “stayed right where it was.”

Alerted by emergency dispatchers, a California Highway Patrol officer was able to catch up to Sikes’ Prius and used the patrol car’s public address system to instruct Sikes to apply the brakes and the emergency brake at the same time.

The tactic worked, and the car slowed to about 50 mph. Sikes said he was able to shut off the car, and it rolled to a stop. The responding officer, Todd Neibert, positioned his patrol car in front of the Prius as a precaution to prevent it from moving again.

Toyota recently issued widespread recalls due to problems related to the accelerator pedal in several of its auto models. One theory behind the sticky accelerators is the vehicles’ floor mats.

But Sikes said “my mat was perfect. There was nothing wrong with my mat.”

Sikes said he took his 2008 Prius into a local Toyota dealership about two weeks ago for service and gave workers there his recall notice. He said he was told his car wasn’t on the recall list.

“I’ll be back there tomorrow,” he said Monday, visibly shaken up.

CHP spokesman Brian Pennings said the ordeal lasted just over 20 minutes.

“We are extremely thankful that there was a safe end to this,” Pennings said.

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.

I still don’t understand – why isn’t it sufficient to put the car into neutral and coast to a stop?

There’s a lively discussion on just this incident in the Repair and Maintenance board. The OP is skeptical of Mr. Sikes explanation. I’m curious,too. How many other events like this have occurred with Prius? The car has been around in the USA since 2001. I know that any issue with a Toyota is picked up and broadcast mow, but it seems like we should have heard of more such problems in the last 9 years. Has Prius changed that much in the 3 generations it has existed? Sikes drives a 2008, near the end of the 2nd generation. How many reports of unintended acceleration have there been on the 2003-2009 generation that he drives? I don’t have answers, just questions. BTW, this is not rhetoric. I’d really like answers.

The transmission, accelerator and engine off button are all controlled electronically. There is no mechanical linkage. No mechanical contacts. No key to turn. If you have an electronic or software glitch it may not matter what you push or what position your shift lever is in, the car may ignore the input. No electronic signal, no tranmission shift to neutral.

While this is true, the driver said he was afraid the car might “flip over” if he put it in neutral - so he didn’t even try to put the gear selector in “N”. He didn’t push the “start” button and hold it for 3 seconds to shut off the motor either. These were things he could do, but he decided to call 911.

The exact same incident was discussed/beaten to death yesterday in the following thread:

this is funny: the same day this appeared on the news, they showed an episode of “the rockford files” where they did the same thing. except they went over a cliff for added drama.

I remember when the Audi had this problem some 10+ years ago.

And right after it was reported on the news about the problem with Audi…the 19yo woman Audi started speeding down the highway and almost crashed…

Turned out it never happened…Yes she went speeding down the highway…but there was no failure of the system. She later admitted it…just someone wanting attention.

…afraid the car might “flip over”. Aside from whether or not shifting to N would or would not have worked, does this reason for not trying N sound right? Would it not occur to most drivers to try N? Mr. Sikes is obviously old enough to have driven for many years. How does an experienced driver logically tie the notion of shifting to N to the possible consequence of flipping the car? The possible consequence of a runaway car would sure make me want to try shifting to N.

I didn’t see that thread, and figured this belonged more in the GD section than the R&M.
Also, not everyone thinks the same. If this situation was real, and not some attention mongering, then one cannot always assume the person knows the same things you know. Lots of car owners don’t even know how to check their oil, let alone what to do if their car suddenly takes off on them.
If your dryer suddenly caught fire and was spewing flames out of it, would you try and grab the fire extinguisher, or would you grab your loved ones and head outside.