The owner of a 2008 Toyota Prius says his accelerator "wouldn't do anything" after becoming stuck yesterday on a stretch of Interstate 8 in southern California.
The dramatic tale of James Sikes' 30-mile, high-speed, out-of-control trip — which thankfully came to a safe end with the help of coaching from a California Highway Patrol officer in another vehicle — is yet another public relations nightmare for the Japanese automaker.
Just yesterday, Toyota went on the offensive to make its case that electronics systems are not at fault for the accelerator problems that have forced it to recall millions of vehicles.
But today, the company faces headlines such as this, from the San Diego Union-Tribune: "CHP Aids Driver Of Runaway Prius; Stopping Speeding Toyota Hybrid Took 30 Miles". And this one, from the Los Angeles Times: "Runaway Prius Hits 90 MPH Before Stopping With Aid Of CHP".
Sikes was able to call 911 during the ordeal. The patrol officer drove his car parallel to the speeding Prius, and used a loudspeaker to tell Sikes what to do — hold down the brake, apply the emergency brake and turn off the engine once the vehicle slowed.
As NPR's Paul Brown says in this report, Sikes has told investigators he tried to take his Prius in for repairs before his incident, only to be told that his vehicle isn't on the recall list:
Toyota says it will investigate what happened to Sikes' car and why he was told it wasn't on the recall list.
Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. NBC-TV's Today Show aired this report today. It includes comments by Sikes and the officer, and an animated recreation of the incident:
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