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Mystery over runaway Prius in Calif deepens

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Once the car slowed to 50 mph (80 kph), Sikes shut off the engine, the officer said.

You mean he could have shut it off at any time but chose not to because of his speed? How surprising.

He later told reporters that he tried to pull on the gas pedal during his harrowing ride, but it didn’t “move at all.”

And yet it managed to go back to normal in time for the investigations. Lovely.

If he's genuine, this means that if he'd put it in neutral and turned off the engine at the beginning when it went berserk he would have been ok. He'd even have been able to restart the engine and it would probably have been fine to drive, although no-one would blame him for pulling it over and taking a break. So why did he continue for such a long time? And why didn't he think of using the hand brake by himself? Is it really such a hard thing to contemplate when you want to stop at all costs?

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[Sikes] was afraid the car would flip if he put it in neutral at such high speed.

Why would it flip if he shifted into neutral?

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Of course they can't replicate it because Sikes's story is bogus. The world knows this is what Americans do... They would do whatever they can do to sue for money. Wait and see I bet we will see more americans seeing dollar signs jump on the runaway Prius bandwagen. Pathetic.

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They need to check with the Actors at ABC News. I guess their Prius can do any type of stunt.

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The driver will not sue Toyota and is turning down media requests for interviews, he said.

Classic sign of a guy who knows his little publicity stunt is going to come back and bit him in the a--. I think this guy needs to ditch the plaintiff's attorney and get the best defense counsel he can find...

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"U.S. investigators can't replicate runaway Prius"

Doesn't mean it didn't happen. I've seen many things happen by accident that I couldn't replicate no matter how many times I tried. And according to the cop who was on the scene, Sikes was pretty panicked.

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This sure isn't looking too good in terms of credibility. At least nowhere near as when the story first broke.

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MrUSA, My question exactly. Back when I was 16 and driving my father's Ford, this same thing happened - throttle stuck wide open. After an initial shock and thrill of doing nearly 60 in town, I turned off the engine and braked to a stop. Car didn't flip. It just, uh, stopped.

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This whole thing is a classic example of Murphy's Law.

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i think this is a hoax brought about by US government who now owns Toyota's competitors: LADA and GAZ. i mean GM and Chrysler. Or some people just can't drive!

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"Sikes was pretty panicked."

Sikes was able to make the police officer think he was panicked.

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I'm betting all those people who died probably aren't really dead. They faked their funerals to help out the US auto industry.

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He was stupid to not just drop the car into neutral. Instead he gets on the phone while weaving 90mph through traffic... yes, that's the logical thing to do.

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Sarge said "Doesn't mean it didn't happen" Equally true however, "people saying or thinking so also doesn't mean it happened"

This is not the first time Lawyers in the USA have used "sudden acceleration" for damage suit against the Auto makers or defenses for crashing or speeding. Lawyers want to get paid, insurance companies want to recover claims. Including "sudden acceleration" in ones claim can just be a legal strategy - truth doesn't matter as we are talking about lawyers.

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Are you kidding? if they could replicate it, it would be happening ALL the time everyday. This is obviously a freak accident. An extreme number of variables just happened to line up at the right moment to cause this.

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oh wait!!! It is happening all the time, almost everyday. If they could replicate it, then I doubt the problem would even exist in the first place. Obviously something is happening that no one understands yet. Extremely well trained car designers and manufactures would not make a car that accelerates on its own. Its not like its the first car they ever made. There is OBVIOUSLY some system fault that no one can identify yet.

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Although I understand and can see how the whole floor mat thing can happen - these reports of a Phantom Menace pushing the pedal by itself are just ridiculous...

I get the car accelerating of it's own accord via an electronic fault but the idea of the car's gas pedal depressing itself - in spite of the fact that there is no type of servo or mechanism to facilitate this is far fetched to me...

Stuck by the floor mat or not - the pedal won't go to the floor unless someone pushes it there to start with...

Of further background interest to this story...

US Sec of Transport LaHood told an investigating committee earlier this month that:

Three quarters of the reports to the auto-safety regulator were received in the past four months as Toyota City, Japan- based Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, recalled vehicles for defects that may cause sudden acceleration. The agency said it is normal for complaints to jump after recalls are announced.

Toyota’s 2,600 reports of unintended acceleration in the past decade are second to Ford Motor Co.’s 3,526, according to Transportation Department data.

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liar liar pants on fire.

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it was the devil

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In previous news I read that Sikes went to Toyota for the recall and was told he has to get registered and they will tell him when to bring his car.

He gets unstable and I guess it was mental reaction what happened on the road. I don't say he was searching for that but human brain is funny thing sometimes. There might have been something odd and combined with the high speed he panicked, etc., etc., leading to the whole fuss.

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The guy is a liar. He got nailed for speeding and is trying to get out of it.

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The news just said that James Sikes, the Prius driver, is in bankruptcy and still owes Toyota about $19,000.00 for the Prius. He has also lost a boat back to the bank and other things too. Sounds like a faked near accident to try to cash in and save himself financially.

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Tough to say what happened. I've seen a few software glitches that were tough to re-create but it's not impossible to reproduce a software problem. But, between the money and sensationalism involved I doubt the engineers are going to get a lot of good data or time to work on it. I still can't understand why a CHP officer couldn't figure out how to stop a "runaway" car. It's not that difficult. Who can say?

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These Toyota articles written by the Associated Press and other media are redundant because they keep adding what have already been reported in their previous articles to the current article on Toyota. It's not like the reader will forget what was written yesterday or the day an article was written about Mr. Sikes Prius sudden acceleration problem on March 8th.

Gomez also represents the family of CHP Officer Mark Saylor, which sued Toyota this month in San Diego Superior Court.

Wonder why is Gomez Mr. Sikes attorney if he is not planning to sued Toyota then there is no need for a lawyer?

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Hawkeye, now that you mention it, Mr. Sikes also appeard on TV several years ago after winning $55,000 in the California lottery. Something doesn't smell right, and I'm not referring to his allegedly worn down brake pads.

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The incident is a bit suspect. Toyota of course has blown so much credibility with its response to date with the whole "unintended acceleration" issue, that even this incident will damage them.

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Toyota of course has blown so much credibility with its response to date with the whole "unintended acceleration" issue, that even this incident will damage them.

That's true. But as more and more of these liars are investigated, the Toyota owners will too lose credibility.

Toyota just needs to be patient. Pretty soon, everyone will move on and forget about these recalls. Soon, Americans will have something new to panic about.

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MrUSA -- really? Did you read the LA Times piece by John Glionna? He indicates that folks in Toyota's own union here in Japan were warning executives about quality/safety issues as far back as 2006. And they got ignored. And that some folks here are predicting that there may eventually be criminal charges brought. Are they liars too?

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I could imagin some now see a chance to get out of their car payments, so they run it into a tree and claim the gas pedal had a mind of it's own... hoping the Toyota dealership will get them out of the contract and they may get more out of a class action lawsuit.

They (whoever they are) are trying to screw Toyota and the truth will come out.

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Next time I'll be caught speeding on the highway, I'll use the "pedal" trick.

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Toyota playing cover up, we'll never know the full details of this

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Toyota's own union... Are they liars too?

"LA Times" piece = = = = > Nuff said...

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MrUSA -- really? Did you read the LA Times piece by John Glionna? He indicates that folks in Toyota's own union here in Japan were warning executives about quality/safety issues as far back as 2006. And they got ignored. And that some folks here are predicting that there may eventually be criminal charges brought. Are they liars too?

Just for your info, when Unions are negotiating pay deals, "productivity" is always a hot spot, with Unions usually highlighting the dangers of quality and safety when trying to squeeze more out of the workforce. Unless Mr Glionna has more info on the accusations backed up by some reasonable evidence, I wouldn't take his words too seriously.

Most people here seem to have got the point that something is wrong, but there are people queuing up to take advantage.

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Most people here seem to have got the point that something is wrong, but there are people queuing up to take advantage.

Welcome to the world of business...

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People seem not to want to know the truth. They would rather sit at their computers saying things like 'just put it in neutral' and 'just turn the car off'. And it's sad that most people will read this article and now think this guy's a liar just because Toyota wasn't able to replicate the problem. They have yet to replicate or find the problem with any of these cases so far.

“In this case, knowing that we are able to push the car around the shop, it does not appear to be feasibly possible, both electronically and mechanically that his gas pedal was stuck to the floor and he was slamming on the brake at the same time,”

Am I to understand that Toyota actually designed the car to shut off by applying the gas and brake at the same time? Really? Well, the floormats were wedging the accelerator to the floor in different models, by applying only the break--since the accelerator is already being pressed--the car should stop. LAST THING I'd do is put the gas pedal to the floor.....I lay my case.

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“We’re not saying Mr Sikes is wrong or that he lied...,”

Really?!?! Because that's what it looks like to the rest of us. I guess it's a convention scape-goat for Toyota motorists if they get busted for a traffic infraction. If they get in to an accident, they have the bonus option of suing Toyota to get some money out of their deep pockets.

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"The news just said that James Sikes, the Prius driver, is in bankruptcy and still owes Toyota about $19,000.00 for the Prius. "

YOUR news just said it. MY news told me this two days ago. The WSJ sat on ths story over the weekend (no weekend editions), but it was reported Friday night on some sites I hang out on. What is not being reported even now is that the guy has some shady business deals that might extend into web porn, and that he has done this before. That will continue to come out in the days ahead. Another bit of information that seems missing from the story above is that the brake wear shows NO HEAVY BRAKING... imagine that. What was the trooper smelling?

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Each times a report is on a Toyota sudden acceleration it should be judge on it merits if it warrant to be true or not. Every incidents should be taken seriously.

@Proffesor,

If the media did their job they would have informed the reader about the differences between a Prius from a Camry, Corolla, Avalon, and a Lexus. The media have not done a good job informing the readers on stopping a sudden acceleration car much less on the differences between Toyotas. All the media does is write stories about Toyota that and this and how unsafe Toyotas are along with Toyota is messed up. It is up to everyone to research and know about a Prius from the inside out in order to make somewhat correct statements about what a Prius can do.

These articles on JT lack the who, where, when, any why. The articles are leaving a lot of room for readers interpretation. Whether their conclusion may right or wrong is base on the information they are provided.

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That's true. But as more and more of these liars are investigated, the Toyota owners will too lose credibility.

Lose, lose situation for Toyota. You don't want to be in the position of attempting to "discredit" your customers or say they are stupid....bad for business...

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Junnama said,

Lose, lose situation for Toyota. You don't want to be in the position of attempting to "discredit" your customers or say they are stupid....bad for business.

Toyota is refraining from saying that and are choosing their words carefully. I don't believe Toyota have come out and blame drivers for the sudden acceleration.

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I for one think that there may be some problems with some of these Toyota cars but I also believe that true to form many of these supposed "victims" are jumping on the proverbial American sue and get rich band wagon!

I have been in a similar situation with and American made car many years ago back home, where the accelerator got stuck, I followed the standard (if you have a brain) method of putting the car in neutral and applied the brakes! Same car a year later defective brake oil cylinder no regular brakes coming down a mountain road, again kept my cool and used the emergency brake!!!

These people are either idiots or incompetent drivers and shouldn't have been driving or perhaps for many of them its a convenient excuse for their own mistakes!

When you are driving a speeding mass of steel any number of things can go wrong not just things that are the manufacturers fault and as the driver you should know what to do! They teach most of these basic things in driving school if you don't know them well get off the road and take some lessons!

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It seems to me that the floor mats can become stuck under the accelerator pedal.. that was such a simple thing and the accelerator pedals needed 2 b replaced - because people panic when their car does not act right and they are just not calm or rational enough to pull the silly floor mat out of the accelerator. Since then other people have tried to blame other systems and even other cars made by Toyota.. who so far has only apologized and recalled and investigated AFTER, so they have been acting honorably. Can the same thing be said by a speeder who has bad money troubles and sadly cannot afford to pay for his car? He has motive for faking the entire incident so yes he IS suspected of lying. Toyota has had a VERY GOOD reputation for so many years.. but now people are seeking to take advantage of a floor mat incident to try and tear down the entire Toyota company. I think they need to be given the respect that is due such a prestigious company until there is ANY proof of what suddenly so many people have started claiming.. especially since many of these people owned their cars for years until it became news that something could maybe go wrong.. now suddenly they all do?

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These people are either idiots or incompetent drivers and shouldn't have been driving or perhaps for many of them its a convenient excuse for their own mistakes!

See this is the message that keeps coming out. Bad news for Toyota when the customer feels belittled for an accident that they also feel is beyond their control. Audi went through this in the 80's and I don't think Toyota would like to see the same end-game.

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It is thorough investigation to question a victims validity.

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This guy's claims might or might not be true, but there are still 60 other incidents of unintended acceleration, plus the previous two years' worth of troubling incidents, PLUS the death of the state trooper and his family to think about in connection with this Toyota problem. It doesn't happen often, but I think that Toyota has a serious mechanical/design problem they need to solve before going on any PR 'offensive'. To do otherwise is unethical and distasteful, lowering my opinion of the company much more than the actual incidents themselves. It shows to me that Toyota has lost sight of its core value of putting quality ahead of brand image. I've never owned a Toyota before but planned on getting one based on that, but now I am not sure anymore.

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It seems to me that the floor mats can become stuck under the accelerator pedal.. that was such a simple thing and the accelerator pedals needed 2 b replaced - because people panic when their car does not act right and they are just not calm or rational enough to pull the silly floor mat out of the accelerator

Mikanojo, You don't sound like anyone who drives. Please explain to me how a "silly" mat between the gas pedal and the floor would lead to a sudden acceleration.

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There is no bigger death threat than the runaway prius itself!

"Mrs Sikes said the couple's lives have been turned upside down and they've received death threats"

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Mikanojo, You don't sound like anyone who drives. Please explain to me how a "silly" mat between the gas pedal and the floor would lead to a sudden acceleration.

actually sir if the floor mat is not stuck 2 the floorboard and can b scooted by your heel, and if the accelerator pedal is the kind that tilts like a see-saw instead of depresses.. then anything that gets scooted under the down side of the accelerator can keep it from coming back 2 its proper position.. so the person takes their foot off of the pedal.. but the pedal does NOT come all the way back up because the floor mat slid under the end closest to the driver's heel.. and the car continues to drive. The newly reported cases that have suddenly appeared of acceleration not only in the Prius but now also the Camry.. seem to be following the 'witch-hunt' syndrome to me. And absolutely nothing has been proven in even a single car to have been responsible for the tragic death of the patrolman, or the man who suddenly went speeding on the highway.. Toyota has been very gracious.. they did not begin by claiming innocence.. they began by apologizing, recalling, re-equipping cars, and THEN conducting tests to try and find out what could make 2 systems fail simultaneously and allow for the claims to be true.. until a thorough test can prove anything i think that Toyota deserves to be treated with the respect that a company with such a long record of safe affordable automobiles deserves. Innocent until proven guilty in America only means innocent until accused by the media and i think that is just wrong.

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Toyota has been very gracious.. they did not begin by claiming innocence..

Serious revisionist history there. Toyota was dragged kicking and screaming to the recall. That's a prime reason they are getting so much grief right now....

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Sudden acceleration is an intermittent problem. As such it is extremely difficult to replicate. Not only Toyota - but other automakers have gone through this gate, starting with a 60 minutes expose on the Audi over 10 years ago. My Volvo also experienced this once in addition to an improperly anchored floormat incident (slipped off the retaining hooks). Unfortunately - the more vehicles one makes, the higher the probability of a rare occurrence. As there is no logical mechanical reason why an accelerator spontaneously open all the way and stay there, the only logical indication would then point to an electronic system that can control or interfere with the vehicle's acceleration - the cruise control. Software and Hardware are known to experience glitches - nothing works perfectly 100% of the time, including humans. Just because a manufacturer cannot replicate the incident after a few (or few hundred) tests does not mean the problem cannot happen. Testing is EXTREMELY expensive - especially if one is trying to test to replicate an intermittent problem (like trying to hit the jackpot on a slot machine).

Instead of trying to pretend the problem doesn't exist - perhaps the car companies would be well-advised do some positive PR and provide instructions on what to do should one of these rare incidents SHOULD occur. That would also potentially lighten the liability they are desperately trying to avoid.

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"'Sikes is not seeking fame or fortune,' said Gomez." Yeah, right!!! If this guy isn't looking for money why does he have a mouth piece? Anyone really think that lawyer is his spokesman for free?

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What I would like to see is a paper that details every incident of unintended acceleration, the investigation and the result. The rest is just speculation. It would appear that both Sikes and Toyota have some explaining to do.

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He was too scared to remove his hands from the wheel to shift it into neutral, yet he claims to have reached down to pull on the accelerator pedal. Something doesn't add up.

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"It doesn't happen often, but I think that Toyota has a serious mechanical/design problem they"

Jason 6.. Assuming 100 cases among the... I am just guessing... 100 million Toyota cars running in all kinds of conditions around the world, exactly how SERIOUS is this mechanical design problem? And remember that those are not 100 DEATHS, only incidents that might have caused some damage. Just for comparison, let's say 5 deaths, so, Toyota drivers have a 1 in 500 million chance of dying from this "serious design problem."

Well, before we climb on Toyota's case, as a society, let's cure these problems first: bathtubs kill people at a 500 times higher rate. Dogs kill people at a 700 times higher rate. Airplanes kill people at a 10 times higher rate. Eating char broiled steak kills people at a 100 times higher rate. People die "as a result of a lightning strike" at a 50 times higher rate. This includes power outages, etc.

If walking across the street is more dangerous than flying in a plane, as many people acknowledge, then we can safely assume that people are much much safer INSIDE of Toyota vehicles than they are watching one drive by from a street corner.

I think that the design flaw you are looking for is in the human brain. A bathtub, the deadly bathtub, has been used by humans for thousands of years and has no moving parts, but people manage to kill and maim themselves using them as though they were playing hockey 24/7. Who ever, ever, blames the bathtub? So why blame Toyota?

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I think society needs to come to grips with the fact that probability will rear its head increasingly in bizarre ways as populations and record keeping work with larger and larger numbers.

Everyone should shoot for 100% safety, but achieving 99.9999% is really better than anyone could hope for. Toyota did much better than that. It should be good enough. That 1 in 500 million occurrence is what insurance is for. Living in a world where consumers dictate that if a company can not achieve god-like perfection despite all the crazy drivers, road conditions, and maintenance regimes, that they should not even be selling cars? That is arrogance.

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"A Toyota official who was at the inspection explained that an electric motor would “completely seize” if a system to shut off the gas when the brake is pressed fails, and there was no evidence to support that happened, according to the memo."

"The memo said both the front and rear brakes were worn and damaged by heat, consistent with Sikes saying that he stood on the brake pedal with both feet and was unable to stop the car. But if the fail-safe system worked properly, the brakes wouldn’t have been damaged because power would have been cut to the wheels."

Now how do you suppose the brakes got damaged? How about if you have one foot on the gas and the other on the brake! I think that would do it!

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5speedracer5; "100 million Toyota cars running in all kinds of conditions around the world, exactly how SERIOUS is this mechanical design problem"

So exactly how many deaths do you reckon "are acceptable" ? And are those numbers "acceptable" if you or your family members are involved ?

Just wondering.

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"A Toyota official who was at the inspection explained that an electric motor would “completely seize” if a system to shut off the gas when the brake is pressed fails, and there was no evidence to support that happened, according to the memo."

What exactly does this mean ? When you press the brakes the gas shuts off to the "electric" motor ? So what about the gas powered engine ? This is a hybrid- it runs on two systems. I sense the Toyota officials are playing with words here- many of which are extremely unclear.

"The memo said both the front and rear brakes were worn and damaged by heat, consistent with Sikes saying that he stood on the brake pedal with both feet and was unable to stop the car."

OK- so we know he was applying the brakes- so according to the Toyota official the gas supply to the engine should have been shut off ? But it wasn't ? Sorry, but you can't have both ! And the evidence suggests that the shutting off portion of the story doesn't mesh. I've heard this from a couple of sources- that even if you apply both the gas and the brakes, the gas supply to the engine should be shut off- this would lead me to believe there is something in the electronic part of the engine that is overriding the whole system.

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Something's fishy here. If anyone has ever driven on the San Diego freeway in the middle of the day, there is much traffic and the average speed is about 55mph, if not slower, and there are many cars. For one to drive at 94mph,with a "stuck accelerator" for an extended period and NOT have an accident or hitting someone is a little too hard to believe.

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So why did he do it? That Sikes and his wife Patty in 2008 filed for bankruptcy and are over $700,000 in debt. Sikes also has a history of filing insurance claims for allegedly stolen items that are slowly coming to light. In 2001 he filed a police report with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department for $58,000 in stolen property, including jewelry, a prosumer mini-DV camera and gear, and $24,000 in cash, according to Fox40 in Sacramento. His bankruptcy documents show a 2008 payment of $7,400 for an allegedly stolen saxophone and clothes.

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The lack of skepticism from the beginning was stunning. Where to begin? Well, the patrol car didn’t slow down the Prius; the bumpers never touched. The officers used a loudspeaker to tell Sikes to use the brakes and emergency brake together. He did; the car slowed to about 55 mph. Sikes turned off the engine and coasted to a halt. He stopped the car on his own. There wasn’t anything wrong with the transmission or the Prius engine button either.

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The whole incident is suspect, but then again, Toyota's explanation doesn't make a lot of sense either...

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Patchipro,

If anyone has ever driven on the San Diego freeway in the middle of the day, there is much traffic and the average speed is about 55mph, if not slower, and there are many cars.

Not on I-8 there aren't. Except for the periodic Customs/Border checkpoints, you can pretty much drive 90+ the entire stretch between San Diego and Arizona. Thus, it is a perfect stretch of highway if you're going to pull a stunt that includes driving at high speeds for a long time.

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Sikes had rapidly pressed the gas and brakes back and forth more than 250 times. The company had no explanation for why he might do such a thing but said the car's front brakes were shot.

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