Consumer Fraud

NHTSA, Toyota examining runaway Prius for electronic defects

At this point, one has to ask wonder if Toyota will ever figure out what’s causing so many of its cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles to accelerate suddenly and unintentionally. It seems like every time the company says that electronic throttle controls aren’t to blame, another car takes off like a rocket.

Just hours after Toyota executives finished a presentation Monday about how an electronic malfunction couldn’t be the cause of the sudden, unintended acceleration problems in its cars, another incident occurred that confirmed the opposite.

This time, 61-year-old James Sikes was driving his 2008 Prius on Interstate 8 near San Diego when the car suddenly accelerated to speeds approaching 100 mph.

“I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny. It jumped and it just stuck there,” Mr. Sikes told reporters gathered for a news conference.

“I was trying the brakes … it wasn’t stopping. It wasn’t doing anything and it just kept speeding up,” Mr. Sikes said.

Sikes managed to call 911 while he continued to race along the highway at speeds of 94 mph. Twenty minutes later, a highway patrol officer pulled up next to Sikes and gave him instructions through a loudspeaker on ways he might be able to stop the car.

First the officer told Sikes to turn off the ignition and shift to neutral, but Mr. Sikes motioned to the officer that neither measure was working. The officer then told Sikes to apply the brakes simultaneously with the parking brake, which slowed the vehicle to about 50 mph. Sikes was then able to slow the Prius to a stop.

During the incident, Sikes was able to reach his hand to the gas pedal to determine whether the pedal was jammed, but there was no interference from the floor mat. Police did a visual inspection after the incident and confirmed the floor mat was securely in place.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota both dispatched investigators and engineers to examine the car, which was held by the California Highway Patrol overnight and taken to a Toyota dealer in El Cajon on Tuesday.