The Empire Strikes Back: NHTSA Says Harrison Crash Was Driver Error, Japanese Police Recommends Charges Against Prius Driver

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Black box data in New York and Japan shows that crashing Prius drivers had their feet on the wrong pedals and wrongly blamed their cars.

In Harrison, NY, the NHTSA declared that the cause of the Prius incident was driver error.Computer data from a Toyota Prius that crashed in suburban New York City show that at the time of the accident the throttle was open and the driver was not applying the brakes,” U.S. safety officials said to Associated Press.

NHTSA said information from the car’s computer systems indicates there was no application of the brakes and the throttle was fully open. The NHTSA “did not elaborate,” says AP, but the conclusions are clear: Someone’s foot was on the gas instead on the brakes.

The local Journal News learned that the disclosure did not please Harrison’s acting police chief Capt. Anthony Marraccini, who felt that the Feds are treading on his turf: “It’s disturbing to me that any information was released without the consultation of the Harrison Police Department,” Marraccini said. “We have done everything to protect the integrity of the investigation and Toyota.”

He said his probe was not over and driver error had not been established. He also complained that Toyota wouldn’t give him the tools to read the black box of the Prius.

“You can’t open it, you can’t read it, you can’t do anything with it,” Marraccini said, referring to the recorder.

Meanwhile in Japan, police of the Chiba prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, recommends that criminal charges are brought against a driver who claimed a brake failure had caused his Toyota Prius to crash into another car in the town of Matsudo. Two people aboard that car were slightly injured in the accident.

Again, data from the event recorder in the Prius showed that the brakes were working properly, Japanese police said today.

According to today’s Nikkei, “the accident in Matsudo led the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to instruct Toyota to conduct checks on the Prius’ brake system. Later, Toyota announced a recall to address a glitch in the Prius’ antilock brake system, which causes a momentary lag in brake function when driving slowly on bumpy or slippery roads.”


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  • CarPerson CarPerson on Mar 19, 2010

    This could get very interesting very quickly... If the car owner has a lot of money and is determined to prove it was not the housekeeper, that car is going to get torn down to every bolt, nut, and washer. Rich people aren't like you and me.

  • Pungojohnny Pungojohnny on Mar 20, 2010

    Bertel, good point about the 52 deaths. I went back and read the specific articles where that was reported, and yes they are saying that certain deaths were "attributed" to Toyota unintended acceleration by individuals posting complaints on NHSTA's website. I'm very disappointed in Toyota's responses to this issue and I find their efforts to blame the driver offensive because in January my beloved Toyota 4Runner went into high speed acceleration on its own, so I know that it happens. I also know that there are hundreds of complaints by other 4Runner owners of the same issue, but not a single 4Runner has been recalled to date. I've since gotten rid of the vehicle and will never own another Toyota. I continue to monitor the issue because I believe that Toyotas will continue to have these events until they fully admit the scope of the problem and find and implement the necessary solutions. In the meantime I fully expect that there will be more accidents, more injuries and more deaths while a great car company dithers over its own corporate culture.

    • Wmba Wmba on Mar 20, 2010

      Well, I've searched the web for the last half-hour, and can find only isolated reports of 4 Runners taking off by themselves. And they all seem to be people driving into garages just as the A/C cycles on, raising the idle speed enough to overcome the light brake application usual in such instances. Hundreds of reports? Perhaps you could enlighten me as to where these are located? Thanks. Since you are one of the few readers of TTAC who claim to have experienced this unintended acceleration of a Toyota at high speed, perhaps you could tell us what happened and how you dealt with the situation. I realize you have gotten rid of the vehicle, and were obviously upset enough to do so. You "know" it happens. Let us in on the details, please. I would find it fascinating to hear about it from a car guy's perspective.

  • Art Vandelay I’d grab one of these if I’d spent my working life at GM for sure!
  • Analoggrotto The factory is delayed due to an investigation of a peter puffery ring lead by VoGhost, Tassos, EBFlex a Chevrolet Volt.
  • FreedMike Looking forward to the protests at the factory accusing Toyota of excessive woke-ism. First, EVs...next, grooming. Lord help us all.
  • MrIcky I remember when Gladiators came out and everyone was shocked at how expensive they were. Now all the off road specials have caught up or passed it financially. I like this truck a lot, but I'd still take my Rubicon over this. I'd take this over the Ranger Raptor or Tacoma TRD though. When I found out the increase in track for the new TRD was just wheel offset-I knew they were just phoning it in. Why spend so much R&D on those stupid seats when you could have r&d'd longer arms or a front locker.
  • Alan Hmm, I see a bit of politicking here. What qualifications do you need to run GM or Ford? I'd bet GM or Ford isn't run by experienced people. Anyone at that level in an organisation doesn't need to be a safety whip, you need to have the ability to organise those around you to deliver the required results.
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