Pedal to the metal
Looks like we might have another reality TV star in the works. A blue 2008 Prius' accelerator became stuck while 61-year-old driver James Sikes was speeding up to pass another vehicle.
He was driving eastbound on Interstate 8 in San Diego — the same county where an off-duty California Highway Patrol trooper and three family members were killed last August, an incident that brought Toyota's wonky wheels to the fore and launched the first major recall over unintended acceleration.
"I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny ... it jumped and it just stuck there," Sikes told the Associated Press. "... It just kept speeding up."
Perfect material for True Life: I Survived the Prius.
Sikes called 911 as his car peaked at 94 mph. (Who knew that a Prius could even reach 80?)
A CHP patrol officer caught up with the Prius about 20 minutes later and yelled through a loudspeaker to tell the driver to apply his emergency brake in tandem with the brake pedal. Turns out the two brakes are a match made in heaven, and nobody was hurt in the incident.
Oddly, once his speed dropped to about 50 mph, Sikes turned off the engine and was able to coast to a stop as the officer drove in front of the Prius to block the car if necessary.
Sudden unintended acceleration of Toyotas has allegedly been the cause of 56 fatal accidents in the U.S. since 2004. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, a Massachusetts consulting firm that works with the auto industry and the government stated, "The problem is going to keep surfacing. If it is not the floor mat, and it is not a sticky pedal, and it is not the driver, then what do you have? It is the electronic control of these vehicles. There is nothing but the electronic control."
Indeed, Toyota's diagnosis process appears flawed: The Sikes incident occurred just two weeks after he had taken the vehicle in to an El Cajon dealership for repairs after receiving a recall notice, but was turned away.
For now, we can expect to witness more hybrids careening across the state of California. CultureMap asks: At what point will the Governator step in?