Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Prius Runaway Story Raises Suspicion

James Sikes

James Sikes at a press conference about the alleged runaway acceleration incident.

James Sikes, a 61-year-old San Diego-based real estate executive, made national news this week when he claimed that his 2008 Toyota Prius sped out of control on California�"s Interstate 8. Sikes said, �SI pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny⬦it jumped and it just stuck there." Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Sikes said, "I was trying the wasn't stopping, it wasn't doing anything and it just kept speeding up." The story was picked up by major national media and ricocheted around the Internet.

According to Sikes, he was unable to shift into neutral, power down the car, or apply the parking brake�but but he did manage to call 911. Whle Sikes was on the call, which lasted 23 minutes, a California Highway Patrolman raced to the side of the speeding car. The patrolman used a loudspeaker to advise Sikes to apply the parking brake and foot brake simultaneously, and thereby successfully bring the car to a stop. There are conflicting reports about whether or not Sikes tried to put the Prius into neutral during the early part of the incident.

Runaway News Reports

A local television news report misreported that the patrolman used �Shis own police cruiser as a brake.⬝ CNN reported that the main �Sclaimed that he almost flew over a hill at more than 90 miles per hour in his Prius.⬝

There were other mistakes in national media coverage, including the report that the Sikes incident caused Toyota to issue a new recall for 2004 � 2009 Toyota Priuses. Those vehicles were included in a late 2009 voluntary safety recall�related to accelerator pedals that could be trapped by floor mats. There have been reports that some Toyota vehicles that received service in a separate recall are still experiencing problems, but second-generation Priuses, such as Sikes�"s, have not yet been called into dealerships. Nonetheless, Sikes claims that he was turned away from a Toyota dealership when he tried to get the Prius serviced as part of a recall.

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