At long last, police in Harrison, NY, agree with NHTSA findings that “driver error caused the crash of a Toyota Prius in this New York suburb,” says the Wall Street Journal. The converted Harrison police chief would even drive a Prius.
Capt. Anthony Marraccini, acting chief of the Harrison police, said there was no mechanical or electrical failure in the car: “The vehicle accelerator in this case was depressed 100 percent at the time of collision. There is absolutely no indication of any brake application.”
Marraccini was the last to come to this conclusion. Before, he had complained about NHTSA trampling on his turf, about Toyota not giving him their laptop, and refused to rule out driver error. Later, he said driver error was “a possibility.”
In the highly publicized case, a 56-year-old housekeeper had driven her employer’s 2005 Prius down the employer’s driveway, where, as she claimed, the Prius developed a mind of its own and sped up despite her braking. The car reached a top speed of 35 miles per hour during a short drive that ended across a busy street.
The car slammed into a stone wall at 27 mph. Car and wall were damaged, driver was not seriously hurt. Toyota’s reputation, at the time reeling from the James Sikes caper, took a damging hit.
Marraccini now did a 180 and said he believes that Toyota Prius cars are safe, says Reuters. “Quite honestly, I would have no reservations about putting my own family” in a Toyota Prius, Marraccini said.
In the much more dubious James Sikes case, the California Highway Patrol is leaving the question open, despite findings of the NHTSA and Toyota to the contrary.
Ever since the two cases went down in flames, and after police in Japan recommended that criminal charges are brought against a driver who claimed a brake failure had caused his Toyota Prius to crash into another car, reports of runaway Toyotas dropped precipitously.
Previous reports caused a mass hysteria, congressional hearings, a flood of class action suits, and recalls of more than 8m Toyotas worldwide.