Prius / Toyota runaway stories aren't passing the smell test

I have driven cars since I turned 16, roughly (*cough* *cough*) years ago and I’ve driven everything from subcompacts to 2-ton delivery vans. (Interesting note – as a temp worker with the US Postal Service years ago, I’ve even driven cars from the “wrong” side of the car!) I’ve had brake failures, blown tires, transmission failures, tie rod breakages, electrical failures, overheats, blown fuses, etc., etc, etc. And yes, I had a carburetor failure that stuck open the gas flow in an old postal vehicle that made it impossible to “let up off the gas.”

I have never had the gas, the brake, and the transmission fail at the same time. And that’s what would have to happen for a car to go runaway with you and you be unable to stop it for miles.

In the 1 case of gas pedal stickage (and it was actually the linkage in the carb that was sticking, truth be told) I stomped on the crappy brakes that those postal jeeps had and they stopped the little beast immediately. I then turned the engine off and put it in park. The grand total time of the event was 15 seconds. In fact, it was probably less since I’m sure it seemed longer than it was.

There have been people die from these events getting a lot of press time, of that I have no doubts, and those deaths are tragic. But every test performed by every agency that has allowed the results to be independently verified has shown that the braking system on virtually every car being sold today can more than easily out-muscle the engine in the car and can bring the vehicle to a stop under the driver’s control. That is assuming, of course, that the driver actually retains the presence of mind to do these things.

Or that the driver actually wants to do these things.

Witness the story of James Sikes of California who, he says, was the victim of a runaway 2008 Toyota Prius. The Prius managed to get up to 90 miles per hour over the course of the event, zipping down I-8 near San Diego, and would not stop with Sikes stomping on the brakes the whole time.

Only, apparently, he didn’t, according to investigators. The brake pads in the car would show it if a 90-mph stop were attempted over that period of time and they don’t. Ergo, he didn’t. In spite of the pleas of the 911-operators to shift the car into neutral so he could make a controlled stop on the side of the road, he didn’t. In spite of the pleas of those same operators to turn off the car, he didn’t. He didn’t shift the car into neutral because, he said, he was afraid it might flip the car over. (Ludicrous.) He also says he didn’t want to take his hands off the wheel. (You know, like he was already doing while he was talking on the phone to the operators.) Micheal Fumento at Forbes goes into far more detail on this and explores the actions of the press who ate up every nugget of this ridiculous spew.

The investigations thus far have shown that the victims of these “runaways” are all older drivers – 55 and up with the vast majority being over 60. Now, if this were really an issue with the cars and not the drivers, the ages of the drivers would be all over the map. They’re not. This isn’t a problem with the vehicle. It’s pilot error. And the press isn’t being very informative about that. The stories do not pass the smell test and I’m suspicious of the press’ lack of interest in getting at the truth.

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3 comments

  1. After this Toyota situation erupted I read industry studies on brake stickage (such a technical term!) across all brands of cars and truck. Study after study (if I recall correctly) shows that brakes that stick are driver error 99.999999999 to infinity% of the time, as in – the cases for actual brakes “sticking” due to manufacturing defects number in the single digits. Out of MILLIONS of vehicles.

    Color me skeptical.

  2. This will all come down to a stunt trying to punish Toyota in order to prop up failing GM (Government Motors.)
    It will be exposed, and the Prez and his instigators will wear even more egg on their faces.

  3. This thing is not a car ? It is a roller skate with a battery. Riding lawn mowers have bigger tires than this thing.
    And what the hell is a Prius anyway ? Sounds like a French sowing machine. Who would name a car Prius ?
    What happened to the day when they used to name cars, Mustang, Gran Torino, and Challenger.

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