By on March 23, 2010

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.

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7 Comments on “Harrison Police Exonerates Toyota: Definitely Pilot Error...”


  • avatar

    Funny how hysteria dissipates, eh?

  • avatar

    Yeah, but. Toyota would do itself and the world an enormous favor with some transparency about their monitoring hardware, software and protocols. I know it isn’t the Japanese way, but after ripping off a full clip into their feet, maybe a PR counselor could show them a better way. If their cars are really safe and they have nothing to hide, then…….

  • avatar
    mdensch

    I would cut the acting chief some slack here. It is his jurisdiction and the case isn’t closed until he makes his final determination as to the cause. NHTSA and Toyota not only should have included the local PD in their investigation but should have allowed the chief to be lead spokesperson. In earlier statements he didn’t refute NHTSA’s finding, he was complaining that the agency and Toyota weren’t sharing information with him. Now they have and the he is able to close the case.

  • avatar

    It is important–in looking at some of these more extreme cases of specific, seemingly “quality problems”–to separate truth from fiction. This does not exonerate Toyota. Remember over 7 million vehicles have been recalled over the recent past due to documented quality issues:

    http://www.philosophiesofbusiness.com/blog/2010/03/17/quality/troubles-in-toyota-city-2

    Tim Mojonnier

    • 0 avatar
      Tricky Dicky

      And how would this issue be any different if it was 17 million vehicles recalled, or 70 million, or 700? It’s a common part, something our industry strives to achieve as one dimension of delivering high quality, better priced vehicles for consumers.

      Surely the problem at hand is that some drivers have been affected by safety related issues, it has taken quite some time to pinpoint what those issues might have been, and in some people’s minds there is a possibility that the entirety of the issue has not yet been resolved.

      Perhaps the key learning point is that with ever increasing complexity of vehicle design and component interaction, the quality of built-in diagnostic functions has not kept pace with the rest of the technology. Don’t you think that Toyota would love to come and out and prove that there’s nothing wrong with their vehicles, just as they’ve done with this case in Harrison, NY. The challenge to them, and probably everyone else in the auto-business hereafter, is that we will be suspected anytime a driver does something idiotic in their car and blames a technical malfunction.

      This issue is a game-changer and whilst everyone has been quick stone Toyota for their ‘sins’, the reality is, every car company will be scrutinised in this way in future.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    Pelosi must be in a real bitchy mood lately with all the news flying around about Toyota.

    “What do you mean Toyota sales are rebounding!!! Why haven’t we put them out of business yet, we have 50 billion dollars invested in GM that we need to get back to pay for healthcare!!! REAW!!!

  • avatar
    CatFan78

    Even though Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles, the pedal issues have ONLY occurred on a few dozen vehicles. Sounds like Toyota is actually going above and beyond what most other Auto makers would do.

    There have been several million recalls by OTHER auto makers just in the last month. How much have you heard about them? Probably not much because everyone seems to be out to get Toyota. GM recalled over 1 million vehicles for a long running steering problem that has been going on for 4 years (why didn’t GM do that recall sooner? must have been hiding something). Honda about a million between the Odessy van brake pedal and the shrapnel shooting airbags (those sound kind of serious also). Nissan has had a pretty large recall, and several other automakers.

    Wonder why these are not getting the same attention.

    And what about the car wash driver killed a couple of weeks ago by a claimed sudden unintended acceleration issue in NY? Oh, I guess since it was Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee, it wasn’t news worthy. In fact, there have been so many SUA issues of the Grand Cherokee in car washes, many car wash operators will not drive them thru the wash. They push them through. And a safety group petitioned NHTSA to look into the Grand Cherokee SUA issue. But guess what…. NHTSA refused.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

    Double standard? Government COI?


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