Consumer Fraud

Second Prius runaway follows on heels of Monday incident

The news had barely surfaced about a runaway Toyota Prius incident in California, which occurred Monday, when reports of a Prius crash due to sudden unintended acceleration came to light. This second incident happened Tuesday in Harrison, New York.

According to news reports, a 56-year-old woman was pulling out of a driveway Tuesday morning when her 2005 Toyota Prius suddenly sped out of control, carrying her across a roadway until she crashed into a stone wall.  The woman, whose name has not been released, received minor injuries in the crash and was take to a local hospital for treatment.

Monday, 61-year-old James Sikes dialed 911 when his 2008 Toyota Prius suddenly began racing out of control on a California highway near San Diego. He reached speeds of 94 miles per hour before a California Highway Patrol officer was able to help him bring the car to a stop. The police officer pulled alongside the speeding vehicle and shouted instructions to Sikes to help him figure out how to stop the runaway car.

Finally, a combination of standing on the brakes and pulling the emergency brake slowed the car to about 50 miles an hour, and then Sikes was able to stop the vehicle. Thankfully, he was able to avoid a crash and was not injured.

Both crashes are the latest bad news in a string of woes for Toyota, which has recalled more than 9 million vehicles to date, most for problems with unintended acceleration. They have blamed a large portion of the problem on improperly fitting floor mats, which they say can trap the accelerator pedal. Other sudden unintended acceleration incidents are being blamed on a “sticky” accelerator pedal.

Model year 2004 through 2009 Prius vehicles are included in the floor mat recall. However, in the case in New York, news reports say investigators found the vehicle’s floor mats had been secured to the seat with plastic ties to prevent the mat from sliding under and entrapping the pedal. In the case in California, Mr. Sikes reports he was able to reach under the pedal during the acceleration incident, and it was not trapped by the floor mat. He had taken the vehicle to a dealer already as part of the recall, and was told the car was not on the recall list.

Toyota has sent investigators to examine both of the Prius vehicles involved in these incidents.

Independent investigators of sudden unintended acceleration incidents are skeptical of Toyota’s claims that floor mats or sticky pedals are to blame. They assert the fault lies with the cars’ electrical systems. The fact that sudden unintended acceleration incidents are still occurring, even in vehicles that have undergone the recall-required “fixes,” seems to support this suspicion.

USA Today
New York Daily News
New York Times