Toyota stuck accelerator highway horror? Or highway hoax?

“On the very day Toyota was making a high-profile defense of its cars, one of them was speeding out of control,” according to CBS News and a host of other news outlets.

“It was a pretty frightening Monday afternoon for a driver in San Diego. The California Highway Patrol said the driver of a Toyota Prius [James Sikes] called 911 around 1:30 p.m. to say the car’s accelerator was stuck and he couldn’t slow it down . . . .At one point the car was traveling at 90 mph.

“The Highway Patrol responded. To get the runaway car to stop, they actually had to put their patrol car in front of the Prius and step on the brakes. The car eventually stopped near La Posta Bridge, but the whole event lasted for about 20 minutes.”

Evening news broadcasters had a field day expressing their horror.

Nobody thought to point out the rather suspicious timing, coming at the height of the media madness over Toyota’s accelerators. There’s been only one similar incident, in which a Lexus driver called 911 and the incident ended with his entire family being killed. In fact, some analysts think the entire Toyota frenzy can be traced back to that one incident.

Yet “US Police stop another runaway Prius”is the headline of a British story on the Sikes incident. Maybe the CHP should designate a special squad to stopping runaway Priuses.

During those 20 minutes, Sikes had the presence of mind to take out his cell phone and place an emergency call but it didn’t seem to occur to him to put the car into neutral? When interviewed afterwords on video he never mentioned it. Presumably when directly asked he will say he tried and it didn’t work.

Couldn’t he push the stop button? First reports said it didn’t work. We were told “he couldn’t slow the car down.”

What about the brakes?

“I was trying the brakes…it wasn’t stopping, it wasn’t doing anything and it just kept speeding up,” Sikes said. He added he could smell the brakes burning he was “pressing the pedal so hard.”

Somehow the sticky acceleration problem also caused other completely unrelated systems to malfunction.

Or as one comment posted to a version of the story put it, “As an old automotive/equipment maintenance specialist I’m baffled… I cannot understand why brakes, ignition and everything fails at the same time the accelerator sticks!!!”

Either Toyota is now producing cars that would make an old Yugo shine, or something is terribly wrong with this picture.

Then I found this report, stating “A patrol car pulled alongside the Prius and officers told Sikes over a loudspeaker to use the brakes and emergency brake. After the car slowed to about 50 mph, Sikes felt safe enough to turn off the engine and coast to a halt.”

So it never occurred to Sikes to put the car into neutral, he chose to not hit the stop button, and he said that the brakes alone were worthless alone, but were effective in combination with the emergency brake. Certainly the emergency brake alone couldn’t have brought the vehicle from 94 mph to 50.

All of which would make one extremely suspicious except for this one vital fact.

We KNOW people would never pull a stunt just for publicity. For example, we know the “balloon boy hoax” did not occur in October. A tearful family did not express fears that their 6-year-old boy could be inside a runaway balloon and did not appear on one national TV show after another insisting it was the God’s honest truth – until they were forced to admit they just wanted to be on the teevee.

No, clearly this man’s accelerator was stuck.

Even if perhaps what made it stick was his foot.