The legitimacy of the story of Jim Sikes, the 61-year-old man who couldn’t stop his 2008 Toyota Prius on a Southern California freeway earlier this month until he was assisted by a California Highway Patrol officer, is now in question.
According to a report on CNN.com, technicians who tested the Toyota after its owner claimed its gas pedal stuck were unable to recreate the same condition.
The revelation was detailed in a draft of a congressional memo obtained Sunday by CNN.
In addition, owner Jim Sikes’ claim that the car kept going even though he slammed on the brake while his gas pedal was stuck to the floor does “not appear to be feasibly possible,” read the memo draft.
The memo summarizes the observations of a representative present at the testing of the Prius, as well as another car “allegedly involved in sudden unintended acceleration events.”
Sikes, 61, declined specific comment but said the new chapter of the runaways saga will be addressed by his attorney.
The Southern California incident was the first of now at least a half-dozen similar claims around the country.
The runaway Toyota phenomenon was also the subject of a Saturday Night Live parody March 13.
Sikes was traveling east on Interstate 8 outside of San Diego, California, when his accelerator stuck as he sped up to pass a car. He eventually reached a speed of 94 mph.
Sikes called 911 for help as he was traveling on a winding, hilly portion of the highway. Dispatchers tried to talk him through ways to stop the car but couldn’t.
A CHP caught up to Sikes and used the patrol car’s public address system to instruct Sikes to apply the brakes and the emergency brake at the same time and the car stopped.
Technicians from Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took Sikes’ Prius on a test drive and attempted to duplicate the same experience, the memo said, but were unsuccessful. A congressional staffer and another Toyota technician tested another Prius.
“Every time the technician placed the gas pedal to the floor and the brake pedal to the floor, the engine shut off and the car immediately started to slow down,” the memo said. “NHTSA and Toyota field representatives reported the same results with the 2008 Prius owned by Mr. Sikes.”
“These findings certainly raise new questions surrounding the veracity of the sequence of events that has been reported by Mr. Sikes,” said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, and ranking member on the committee.
Article Last Updated: March 14, 2010.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.