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Probe Casts Doubt on San Diego Man's 'Runaway' Prius

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As part of an investigation conducted by Toyota and the federal government, testing on the Prius James Sikes of San Diego says he could not bring to a stop could not yield duplicate results, thereby "casting doubt on the driver's story," according to an AP story published by KTLA.

A memo indicates "experts who examined and test drove the car could not replicate the problems James Sikes said he encountered," and reports that in Sikes' vehicle "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."

Sikes reported his 2008 Prius as being out of control on Interstate 8 near San Diego last Monday, and drove without successfully bringing the hybrid vehicle to a stop for 23 minutes until a CHP officer provided assistance. Sikes' report of applying the brakes is also now in question:

The brakes on [Sikes'] Prius also did not show wear consistent with having been applied at full force at high speeds for a long period, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing three people familiar with the probe, whom it did not name. The newspaper said the brakes may have been applied intermittently.
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Rumors that Sikes' claim was a stunt or a hoax began to surface soon after the incident was reported. This blog post on the Edmunds site discusses possible errors and falsehoods in both the media's reporting as well as Sikes' claims. In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the following immediately after the incident:

Sikes, a real estate agent, said he had received a recall notice for his car but was not sure what it was for. He said he had gone into the dealership, Toyota of El Cajon, and was told he was not on the recall list.

The dealership was correct--the 2008 Prius was not subject to recent recall, and the last likely notice Sikes would have received from Toyota regarding safety issues of his vehicle would have been in fall of 2009 and addressing floor mats; the notice explains that Toyota urges drivers to remove their floor mats until an accelerator pedal repair is announced and made available. (Drivers of Toyota vehicles can use the company's site to search by VIN for specific safety and recall information.)Sikes has not commented publicly regarding the recent test findings or the cries of "hoax" in response to his experience. He has said he does not plan to file suit against Toyota, and in the meantime, his wife Patty says her husband "stands by his story," and that their wish is to be left alone. "We're just fed up with all of it. Our careers are ruined and life is just not good anymore."