By on April 8, 2010

Chandler, Arizona, NBC affiliate Channel 12 has the harrowing story of a runaway Toyota that nearly killed a boy.

Driver Chuck Schmeiser pulled his 2008 Prius into a grassy parking lot. A boy helped the driver ease up the car to a berm and park the Prius. Then, says Schmeiser, “The car just accelerated, went over the berm, and at that time we did hit that young man.”

Luckily, the boy fell to the left and was unharmed. “We hit that boy, and if that boy hadn’t gone off to the left of our car, if he had fallen in front of our car, we very well could have killed him,” Schmeiser said.

Chuck says jamming on the brake did nothing, but he finally managed to stop the car. How, wasn’t explained. The video shows the front wheels of the car just on the other side of the berm, about two feet from where it was supposed to stop.

The Prius was towed to the local dealer. A Toyota tech inspected the Prius and declared driver error.

The dealer bought back the car. The boy assumed his parking direction duties the same day the harrowing incident occurred.

And the driver? Watch the video. You’ll notice he belongs to a certain demographic.

The commentators at the Channel 12 website are a bit rough on the man. The comments range from “Is this fool living in a cave or under a rock?” to plain “Idiot.”

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39 Comments on “Runaway Prius Nearly Kills Boy...”


  • avatar
    b1msus93

    Demographic: Toyota driver

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    A compilation from 07MAR News of the Weird

    Now, Which One Is the Brake? (all-new)

    Elderly drivers’ recent lapses of concentration, accidentally confusing the brake pedal with the gas: An 89-year-old man crashed through the front of Sussex Eyecare opticians in Seaford, England (June). A driver “in her late 80s” crashed into the Buttonwood Bakery in Hanover Township, Pa. (September). An 86-year-old man crashed into the Country Boy Family Restaurant in Dunedin, Fla. (October). An 82-year-old man crashed into the Egypt Star Bakery in Whitehall Township, Pa. (November). A 78-year-old woman drove off of a 30-foot cliff (but the car’s plunge was halted when it lodged against a tree) near Hannibal, Mo. (August). A 92-year-old man crashed into the Biscuits ‘N’ Gravy and More restaurant in Port Orange, Fla. (January) (but was not deterred amidst the rubble he created, as he calmly went inside, sat down and ordered breakfast). [Seaford: Daily Mail, 6-27-09] [Hanover Township: WNEP-TV (Moosic, Pa.), 12-19-09] [Dunedin: St. Petersburg Times, 10-13-09] [Whitehall Township: Morning Call (Allentown), 11-19-09] [Hannibal: WBBM-TV (Chicago)-AP, 8-13-09] [Port Orange: WESH-TV (Orlando), 1-6-10]

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    I think this is a first! GM and/or Chrysler was NOT mentioned in this post once!

    Good job TTAC! Or are you just getting lazy?

  • avatar
    Znork

    News from Chandler Arizona, Chuck Schmeiser can’t drive and nearly ran over a little boy!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Maybe we’re at the point where we need a UAC-like system for acceleration?

    A attempt to dramatically increase your speed has been detected.

    [Cancel] [Allow]

  • avatar
    brettc

    Maybe he wasn’t happy that Biscuits ‘N’ Gravy and More didn’t have a drive through so he decided to create one.

    I hope the “and More” in the title of that place is referring to bacon. Because you can’t go wrong with biscuits ‘n’ gravy ‘n’ bacon.

    And one last thing…Pushing on the go pedal was likely what made his car crash into a berm. I might be wrong, but probably not.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    As a driver in his sixties, I believe we need to test everyone annually starting at age 70. Mistakes like this are due mental decline, i.e. early dementia, more than to diminished strength, agility, vision or hearing.

  • avatar
    Happy_Endings

    “”I would never get back in that car and drive it again.” ”

    I hope this applies to all cars for Mr. Schmeiser…

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Prius owners, help me out here. Can a Prius really accelerate that hard, intended or not? I mean, most of them that I see are just kind of loping along — except, of course, the ones in the HOV lanes going 85mph.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      The electric motor has good kick of torque. Supposedly the enthusiasts (I’m not making that up) who figure out how to defeat the traction control can snap u-joints without really trying too hard.

  • avatar
    Runfromcheney

    Am I the only one that is reminded of the story in the mid 80s when a dumb suburban mom pushed the wrong pedal in her Audi 5000 and ended up running over her son?

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    So this whole matter is settled then? There is no such thing as Toyota SUA, the causes are either elderly drivers or stupid drivers? Well, if the Toyota reps concluded their investigation, we are all set.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      Right :-)

      Except of course for the pesky problem of data showing much higher rates of SUA in Toyotas than in other cars known to have an older owner demographic.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Why does Toyota hate our Seasoned Citizens so much?

  • avatar
    Moparagain

    So what happened to the Prius?? Did the dealer sell to a younger person so the UA would not happen again? Did Toyota buy it from the dealer setting a precedent for all the the other Toyota’s nobody wants??

  • avatar
    meefer

    Maybe it’s their way of controlling the population or convincing us to buy iReals.

    http://www.livevideo.com/video/66CDB9F6B58C4D41807B314CFC85AAD9/toyota-ireal-bbc-top-gear.aspx

  • avatar
    DasFast

    Unravelling this incident should take anyone with a modicum of logic one sentence to lay to rest:

    “Chuck says jamming on the brake did nothing, but he finally did manage to stop the car.”

    Taking into account the very short distance involved and allowing Chuck the benefit of a superhuman reaction time, how is this even possible? Someone please explain to me how a car can lunge forward, have the brakes applied to no effect, and somehow be brought to rest by other unidentified means all in the period of ten, maybe fifteen feet at most. A lot of action going on in one or two seconds, don’t you think?

    I don’t doubt his sincerity any less than I doubt my five year old nephew’s belief in Santa Claus. Doesn’t make it so.

  • avatar
    Sandy A

    When I first saw this story (not here…) I figured right away that the older driver was going to be blamed, as usual. Maybe he was at fault, maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know. But, older drivers aren’t the only ones having problems. The following article is about a year old, way before Toyota SUA was the “in thing” to talk about. Most of these people are not 60 and up.

    http://www.houstonpress.com/2009-04-23/news/wild-rides/

    Elizabeth James’ story is especially concerning. The San Diego driver may have been faking it, but it doesn’t make sense with her. They didn’t even try to litigate.

    I’m an electrical engineer and I am very familiar with embedded systems and software design for critical applications. Anytime an engineer (or anyone) tells me it can’t be the electronics, especially when concerning a complicated system of systems, I know they are either naive, ignorant, stupid, or lying.

    If you want to hear the truth about electronics and software, then read this:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/11/opinion/la-oew-cummings12-2010mar12

    Title: “Haven’t found that software glitch, Toyota? Keep trying.”

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      I suppose if a significant number of these incidents were a software glitch, we’d see a significant number of incidents where the driver reacted appropriately by applying the brakes, shifting into neutral, or turning off the car, thereby avoiding an accident. Surely, with all the publicity, people with tales like that would be coming forward.

      But the silence from that front is deafening.

    • 0 avatar
      DasFast

      From the link you posted:

      “Riner kept the Prius pegged at 60 mph, constantly looking at the console to manage her fuel consumption.

      Suddenly, she felt the car hydroplaning out of control, and when she glanced at the speedometer she realized the car had shot up to 84 mph. Riner wasn’t hydroplaning; quite simply, her Prius had accelerated on its own.”

      Are you aware that hydroplaning means that the tire has no contact with the road, but instead is floating on a cushion of water? It is very similar to a tire accelerating as it loses traction on slick ice, and easily explains how in a car notoriously modest in power, the speedometer could shoot up to 84 mph so quickly. I experienced very much the same problem driving my 83 hp diesel Landcruiser on level ground, with no increase in throttle, driving at 110 km/hr and encountering black ice. “Runaway!” was not what I was thinking while travelling sideways.
      That is not to say a software related issue couldn’t theoretically be at play here, but hydroplaning is her choice of words not mine, and the most logical explanation as to what happened. One moment she claims the car was subject to the condition, next moment it wasn’t.

      Unbelievable stupidity.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Hmmm, could be one of three things: pilot error, pilot error, or as a last choice – pilot error.

  • avatar
    CatFan78

    Just read a story of an SUV crashing through a Kroger store somewhere in KY.

    Guess what vehicle it was ? Toyota – nope it was a GM Escalade

    Want to guess who was driving? a 76 year old lady.

    Funny though – I haven’t seen this story about the GM get the same level of media coverage as the Toyota stories. Hmmmmmmmmm…….

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      Perhaps the different level of coverage is due to the different level of complaints.

      Out of the top ten cars with SUA complaints, 6 are Toyota/Lexus models. None are GM vehicles.

      For what seems like the hundreth time in a few days, I have to point out that the number of SUA complaints -real or imagined- for Toyota is many times higher than for GM.

      If it was just stupid drivers, we’d see stupidity show up more or less evenly amongst brands/models. If it were just the elderly, we’d see a lot more SUA in brands that the elderly drive. But that isn’t what the data are showing us – not at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Dynamic: The level of coverage is a simple function of supply and demand. Perusing Google Trends, searches for “Toyota” have outranked searches for “GM” 4:1 pretty much since Google started counting in 2004. Searches for “Toyota” spiked beginning of Feb, while searches for GM remained flat. There was a 6:1 feeding frenzy, which was fed. Now it’s back to normal, 4:1.

      Because the NHTSA complaints can be filed anonymously, without VIN number, and are unverified, they lack any significance. Where are the 50+ people Toyota supposedly killed? Nowhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      @bertelschmitt

      I don’t really car about the story ratios, my point is simply that Toyota is having many times more complaints than other manufacturers.

      As you say, the complaints can be filed anonymously, but do you figure there are some weird Toyota haters out there filing reports just to make Toyota look bad? I guess that could be true – there are some people with too much time on their hands. (Maybe Buickman is trying to kill off the competition? -Just kidding Buickman, I know you wouldn’t do that) It seems odd that no one is picking on Honda by filing false reports. I don’t think the complaints are as irrelevant as you seem to think.

      My guess (and I have to admit it’s only a guess) is that complaints are mostly filed by people who have experienced SUA – or think they have. If that much is true, then we still have wildly differential rates.

      It would be good if VINs were required.

  • avatar
    JohnAZ

    I think I know why so many Toyotas are reported with SUA compared to other brands, even though all crashes are caused by operator error.

    More of the senile or foolish people in America are buying Toyotas believing that they are helping the American economy get back on it’s feet.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    You guys don’t get it.
    It was perception that gave Toyota it’s edge, and it is this kind of perception that will hurt it.

    Every one of these stories can be laughed at, and you can mock the driver as a senile idiot or worse, but it doesn’t fix the fact that these stories are out there. This effects a brand’s image.

    The story didn’t turn the driver into a laughingstock. The dealer handled it well, as did Toyota. So it is another bad story for Toyota.

    Go ahead and laugh, but I am certain Toyota isn’t finding this funny.


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