By on March 10, 2010

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Draw your own conclusions. [ABC San Diego via Jalopnik]

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57 Comments on “The Jim Sikes 911 Call: 23 Minutes Of Unintended Acceleration...”

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Where’s the outrage against GM? (sarcasm alert – sarcasm alert)

    Maybe GM should recall every single 1969-on vehicle with Saginaw steering columns.

    Of course, Chrysler would have to recall every single Brampton and Kenosha built AMC from 1969-1987 and every Jeep built even later than that, as well.

    Would International Harvester have to recall all of their trucks & Scouts from that time, too? They had Saginaw steering columns, too….

    Perhaps someone should call the Congress and have them do a hearing…

    Oh, heck. Aren’t FORD and CHRYSLER cars of this era built with Saginaw steering columns too? Just wondering.

  • avatar

    Sikes says he panicked and didn’t think to turn off ignition or put gear in neutral(!)…probably standing on acc and brake with BOTH FEET! Opinion- this guy’s just looking for for a Toyota scapegoatdue to his own actions.

  • avatar

    He was afraid to shift into Neutral for fear of losing control of a car that was accelerating out of control.

    Time to take someones Driver’s License away.

  • avatar

    So, what is easier: operate a cellphone at 90 MPH or put your car in neutral?

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. No doubt the ‘driver’ of this Toyota was more adept at handling his cell phone than he was a vehicle that could kill him or others if mishandled. The sad truth is he’s hardly an anomaly.

    • 0 avatar

      In a Prius, I can reach the lever with the tips of my fingers and flick it into neutral without taking my hands off of the wheel. It’s incredibly easy to throw it into neutral. No button to press and you don’t have to reach to the center console. Just flick the lever on the dash to the left with the tips of your fingers. It might be the easiest auto transmission vehicle to throw into neutral on the market.

  • avatar


    Before hearing this audio, I thought he was full of it…. I’m more convinced now.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It’s hard to steer a car, talk to the police and crap your pants at the same time.

  • avatar

    There’s a glitch alright – in Jim’s head. He can never hear or acknowledge the advice that would solve his problem – shift into neutral (I have a Gen II Prius and tested shifting into neutral with the throttle engaged at highway speeds – it works normally, you don’t have to press the brake or anything, and the engine immediately cuts out and the car slows with no loss of steering) or press the start button for five seconds. But unless Toyota (or the California Highway Patrol – I’m sure they don’t like their time and resources wasted) can prove this guy is lying, he’ll be rewarded for this stunt. With parasites like this, carmakers will have to beef up their blackboxes, adding GPS and video feeds.

  • avatar

    I just found something interesting in the 08 Prius manual. On page 124, it states:

    Do not under any circumstances shift the shift lever to “R”, “N”, or push the “P” position switch while the vehicle is moving.
    Doing so can cause significant damage to the transmission and may result in a loss of vehicle control.

    Do not shift the lever into “N” while the vehicle is moving. Doing so may cause the engine brake not to operate properly and lead to an accident.

    If I have a problem, I’m shifting into neutral. I’m also going to give Toyota a call.

    Talked with a contact at Toyota. It is safe to shift the Prius into neutral while moving. That’s the recommended procedure in an emergency.

  • avatar

    With on hand on the steering wheel and the other hand holding his phone, how could he shift into neutral?

  • avatar

    If/when the fecal matter hits the air-movement device, people like Jim Sikes will be renamed:
    Ambulatory Rations.

    OPERATOR: 911, What is your emergency?

    SIKES: I just lit a fuse and stepped in front of a cannon, what do I do?

    OPERATOR: Get out from in front of the cannon, and remove the fuse from the cannon.

    SIKES: But, I’m standing in front of a cannon, and I’m gonna die! What do I do?!?!…

  • avatar

    Honestly, I didn’t even make it to the one minute mark on his phone call.

    Being of the age group, I immediately recognized a “senior moment” when too many challenges happen all together at once.

    Personally, I’d prefer not to be on the road within 90 miles of Jim Sikes while he learns the operation of his vehicle.

  • avatar

    To me, it looks like he was sent out on I80 to take the heat off Gilbert. Happened the same day Toyota shot down the Gilbert hoax ….

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      I think Sikes is as phony as a $3 bill but I’m not enough of a conspiracy theorist to believe he was acting in coordination with the Gilbert backers. He’s way too big of an idiot to be trusted with that. I say he was a free lance idiot off on his own ride and the timing was just a coincidence. Now that this is the hot trend, not a day will go by without another Toyota SUA incident – it’s the new hula hoop.

  • avatar

    And we have another one:

    • 0 avatar

      That’s just awesome:

      “She’s a wonderful driver,” said Leff. “It’s not her fault. It’s the car.”

      We need a catastrophe in the continental U.S. to take the public’s mind off this nonsense for a while. I’m thinking meteorite impact in the middle of Nebraska or something… Then again unless there’s blood and gore, the press might not be distracted enough to ignore Toyota for the week or two it would take for the hysteria to die down. How about another episode in the vein of H1N1?… that was all you heard about on the news for a while there, and in hindsight, this flu season was less severe than normal.

    • 0 avatar

      lee, I’m all for the meteor strike, but why waste it on Nebraska? Let’s move that to ABC corporate headquarter.

  • avatar

    Jim! Jim! Do you have your foot on the accelerator Jim? Jim! Jim I need you to take your foot off of the gas pedal!

    Jim: But I am trying to control the car!

  • avatar

    Why does he call 911 if he’s not/will not be able to talk at all with the operator??? Nor following her instructions… what a moron.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      He calls 911 so there’s a tape recording to play in the media. He rides for 23 minutes to give a video crew enough time to show up. A picture/audio is worth 1000 words – with no audio/video, there’s nothing to put on the Nightly News. This guy was clearly looking for his 15 minutes of fame (and maybe a payday too) and was willing to do whatever was necessary to get it.

      The good news about this story (for Toyota) is that as quickly as public opinion flipped against them, it could be flipped the other way if Sikes is exposed as Balloon Boy II. But Toyota has to tread lightly and let someone else do the exposing or it will be “blaming the victim” and “covering up”.

    • 0 avatar

      23 minutes? Isn’t this longer than the OJ Simpson Bronco chase?

      This Skies guy is a true moron.

  • avatar

    More info:

  • avatar

    Definitely sounds like he is having a super long senior moment.

  • avatar

    I made it 1/3 of the way before throwing in the towel.
    I think Mr Sikes has senior issues.

  • avatar

    Wow, Jim Sykes has got a lot of balls to say with a straight face that he was incapable of putting a car into neutral and letting it drift to a stop.
    Did I hear this guy actually say he didn’t shift into neutral because he thought the car might flip?
    Was that a dream or did I not hear him correctly?
    Either way I call BS on this one and encourage Toyota to defend their position ruthlessly when this inevitably ends up in court.
    As for the Prius manual saying not to shift into N or R while in motion; that’s just typical CYA language sprinkled throughout owners manuals today.
    There’s no room for nuance because some jack off will interpret it wrongly and sue as a result of their negligence or stupidity.

  • avatar

    I haven’t listened to the whole thing (they expect me to work I think). After listening to 8 1/2 minutes my conclusion is that there was a problem, he was able to dial 911 (hey, it’s 3 numbers) but he can’t hold a meaningful conversation with the operator because he’s too busy trying not to wreck. At 3.25 he acknowledges that it is hard to talk on the phone. My assumption is that the he has both hands on the wheel and the cell is on the passenger seat. That’s what it sounds like to me from my experience when I am talking to someone on their cell and they do that. You can hear him say, say oh! and unh! and swear a few times, plus the sound of other vehicles as he goes by them. I doubt he heard the operator say put to put it in neutral because he never held the phone long enough to have a meaningful conversation with her in the 8 minutes I listened to. As a matter of fact when he first dials 911, he doesn’t even keep his phone up to his ear while it rings because – it seems to me – that he is trying to drive with both hands and keep the car under control. That’s why it’s several seconds before he answers the dispatcher.

    People who make comments like “senior moment” and “I wonder how he drivers the car with one hand and talks on the phone with the other” haven’t listened to the tape or are taking cheap shots. If anyone found out anything else enlightening after the 8 1/2 minute mark please let me know. My lunch break is over.

  • avatar

    As if this story couldn’t get any stranger… an anonymous tipster writes in:
    I traced the phone number on the web site to the contact number on the site. I looked up the adultswinglife llc in California’s business registry. Administrative Contact: Sikes, James 3450 wallace dr Bonita, California 91902 United States (619) 957-7355 Business Entity Detail Data is updated weekly and is current as of Friday, March 05, 2010. It is not a complete or certified record of the entity. Entity Name: ADULTSWINGLIFE, LLC Entity Number: 200907910219 Date Filed: 03/19/2009 Status: ACTIVE Jurisdiction: CALIFORNIA Entity Address: 6765 EL CAMINO REAL STE 105 #222 Entity City, State, Zip: CARLSBAD CA 92009 Agent for Service of Process: JAMES A SIKES Agent Address: 6765 EL CAMINO REAL STE 105 #222 Agent City, State, Zip: CARLSBAD CA 92009

    Let me be the first to say that running a swingers lifestyle club doesn’t automatically make anyone a liar or lawsuit gold digger, but it does add to the, erm, complexity of this story.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL! Hey swingers got rights too!!! But yea, it doesn’t make him look too good. But maybe that’s a badge of honor nowadays in California. I don’t know. I’ve never been to the left coast. Is that kind of thing looked down on out there like it would be in southern Georgia?

    • 0 avatar

      According to the Associated Press he won $55,000 from the lottery in 2006 and was chosen to go on some Lottery TV show, and his job is in real estate (can’t imagine that’s doing very well right now, especially in CA).

      Also noticed this on the Corvette forums, he’s wearing a “Corvette Owners Club” of San Diego jacket.

      Aside from the obvious GM connection there, and the ‘coincidence’ that this supposedly occurred 30 miles from the original ES350 accident, I would expect a Vette owner participating in tightly-knit local automotive club to be able to know how to handle a tiny Prius, or know at least how to put the car into neutral, or even know to stop the car with the emergency brake.

      Also, PriusChat shows what happens when you press the accelerator and brake at the same time in a Gen2 Prius. Prius has a brake override, in the video you see hitting the brakes while accelerating will stop the car near immediately.


    • 0 avatar

      Nice digging…but I’d love to know what got the tipster looking in that particular direction in the first place.

    • 0 avatar

      From :

      CincyJazzy March 10, 2010 8:39 PM EST
      Interesting… He is caught in 2 attempts to defraud his insurance company out of $60K, Just lost his house, and was fired for “unethical behavior”, in the middle of bankruptcy, and now this.

      Filing Number: 3:08-BK-05026
      Filing Date: 06/05/2008

      His latest venture is a new corporation organized in California called Adultswinglife, LLC. See Business Search – Business Entities – Business Programs

      Entity Number:200907910219
      Date Filed:03/19/2009
      Agent for Service of Process:JAMES A SIKES
      Agent City, State, Zip:CARLSBAD CA 92009

      The listing at goes like this:

      Adult Swing Life LLC (619) 957-7355 Fax no: (760)-683-6666 E-mail: [email protected]

      Web: ASL is a multi-level on-line personals meeting place PLUS the most interactive adult site ever full of site, sound, color, animation, graphics, Full shopping mall, ASL merchandise, multiple chat rooms, VIP Red Carpet memberships, Lifetime memberships, FREE memberships, Hosted Meet and Greets worldwide, Multiple events, parties and adult conventions. NASCA [TBA]

      The real estate site says:

      Allow us, Patty & Jim Sikes, to list and sell your property
      or assist you in locating your Dream Home!

      Call or email now: (619)-957-7355 | [email protected]

      Nothing at all against a swing club, especially a multi level one (sounds interesting). But listing it under the same phone number as your realtor’s office is a bit, how shall we say, ill-advised.

      How many minutes do we give them for the first pictures to show up?

    • 0 avatar

      @ Bertel Schmitt

      Nothing at all against a swing club, especially a multi level one (sounds interesting). But listing it under the same phone number as your realtor’s office is a bit, how shall we say, ill-advised.

      Actually, not a problem. SoCal Real Estate tanked two years ago and is still in the toilet. He probably did that just to get the damn phone to ring.

  • avatar

    The runaway Lexus drivers plea for help was answered by GOD at the 6 minute mark according to her congressional testimony.
    Now we have Jim Sikes, furiously hanging on to the wheel and talking on his cell phone for 23 minutes before he is saved, not by GOD but by an officer of the law.
    Jim needs to shut down this alternative lifestyle site at once if indeed he has an interest in one. He needs to get right with the LORD and get back on track. The LORD works in mysterious ways and HE saw the need to give old Jim a 23 minute scare by totally making Jim take leave of all his senses and indeed all his COMMON SENSE.
    Thank the LORD that Jim made it through this without taking someone elses life.
    For the good of all of us Jim needs to walk, ride a horse, or take a cab until this problem with him and the LORD is worked out.

  • avatar

    I can see that in future people will have to have a licence to “operate” a particular motor vehicle, the same as you have to have crane tickets, forklift tickets and even endorsements for different types of aircraft.
    A check ride with a certified expert in that type of vehicle to ensure that you know how to operate your vehicle in a safe manner, know how to recognise an unsafe condition and react accordingly. A drivers licence only demonstrates that you know (or should know) the relevant road laws, not how to operate your car. How many time have you known people to swap cars and suddendly can’t find the headlight switch, or inadverdantly operate the wipers instead of the indicators, (I fall foul to this, swapping from a Ford to a Mercedes)or don’t know that to stop the vehicle you press this button for a set time. Just reading the manual doesn’t equate to knowledge. If a pilot transitioning from a twin engine light twin to another light twin, there is always a check ride to see that you know the different characteristics of the new aircraft. All cars are not the same, if they were we would only have one design. Boring.

  • avatar

    I agree with the sentiments here about Mr. Sikes’ lack of ability handle such emergency. But we are owed a root-cause analysis of what happened.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      What if the root cause analysis is that Sikes caused/faked the “emergency” for whatever reason? I’d say we are owed an analysis too, but an unbiased one that does not assume that the big evil corporation must be guilty even before we start.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    The goofus at the control of this high powered Prius has:

    1) the coordination of a Kennedy
    2) the believability of an Obama
    3) the technical ability of a Gore

  • avatar

    Ya, and if the wife swapping thing from above is true, you can bet he is probably a card carrying Republican too!

  • avatar

    The problem with a guy like this is that he muddys the water for someone who has a legitimate automobile defect. The new stations that broadcast this story on tv should take a good hard look in the mirror.

  • avatar

    looks like the police interfered with natural selection

  • avatar

    I’m bothered by the common accusation that Mr. Sikes faked this incident, and the degeneration of the discussion into partisan politics.

    I’ve listened to the phone call. I’m certain that anyone faking such an incident would have vastly better “production values”. It just doesn’t have the right “look and feel” for a fake. Like a real fender bender compared to a Hollywood car crash, they’re very different. Today, the CHP stands by the driver’s version.

    The incident covered 30 miles in 20 minutes. Would someone think the risk was worth it to drive at 90 mph, in traffic, for 20 minutes? How can they sue Toyota for a fortune if there was no accident?

    I’ve read a number of descriptions about it online. Most vary on significant aspects. One said his wife said they had a similar but minor problem days before. One said an uphill grade helped slow the car. Some said the cruiser acted as a rolling barrier, another said it didn’t. Some said Sikes tried to lift the gas pedal with his hand. One said he was afraid to shut the thing off because the steering would lock. Another said he didn’t shift into neutral because he feared it would go into reverse.

    My only reservation is when he said he could smell his overheated brakes. My experience has been that people are always unaware of overheated brakes because the slipstream carries away the hot air from the brakes. Even at low speed.

    Many have insisted this is caused by pressing on the gas pedal instead of, or at the same time as, the brake pedal. That may be easy to conclude for brief incidents, but in this case the event went on for 23 minutes. Surely the driver would figure out a pedal application problem during that much time. Such as when he tried to lift the gas pedal.

    There have also been tests showing clearly that brakes in good condition have more stopping power than any car’s engine power. But in this case, the brakes obviously overheated. I’ve heard that at high throttle, vacuum boost is reduced. The driver may be pressing on the brake pedal harder than they ever have, but may not be braking very hard. Most of us know how you have to STAND on the brake pedal if the engine isn’t running.

    I believe the articles discussed on TTAC that quick application of the brakes can stop a car at full throttle. But we also know how brakes can get overheated by relying on them to get down a long steep hill. So if they were only partly applied, they would soon overheat under full throttle. This is different from tests that show (cool) brakes are more powerful than throttles.

    People also suggest victims of runaway cars shift into neutral. I once drove a ’64 Chev Suburban with a V8. It had a problem known to happen on them and the equivalent pickups. The engine mounts would break, and if you floored it with a broken mount, the engine would shift and jam the trottle on full blast. You were too fully occupied with steering the careering vehicle to do something like shift or turn off the ignition. A couple of times when this happened, the condition stopped after a few seconds of wild swerving. The last time it happened the Suburban hit a brick building.

    In this case, the officer suggested the driver also use the parking brake. Since the Prius has rear discs, this would employ the little drums used for the ebrake. Good idea.

    • 0 avatar

      You make a number of valid points, but…

      A guy who has likely had his ‘Vette over 140MPH for many many miles on trips to Nevada is scared of putting a Pirus, traveling at 80MPH, into Neutral “because it might flip”???


      I’d like a peek at his driving record.

      Reminds me of J. D. Salinger’s 1951 The Catcher in the Rye. Fame at any price.

    • 0 avatar

      No, the Gen-II Prius (NHW20) does not have rear disks – it has tiny rear drum brakes only. If he were standing on the brakes for most of the “ordeal” (and there wasn’t some other simultaneous glitch preventing the rear brakes from engaging) the rear drums would have been hot already, and the parking brake – which is controlled by a conventional wire, as all parking brakes are – would have had no additional effect.

      There is no vacuum boost either – the Prius uses electric boosters for the regular brakes – almost all parasitic vacuum and/or belt driven accessories were replaced by electric accessories in the pursuit of efficiency (making the hybrid synergy drive in many ways simpler than a conventional ICE setup).

      (Added In Edit) Another thing – the police officer at the scene stated that the cars did not touch. The officer’s vehicle was not used as a brake for the Prius – Jim managed to stop it all by his lonesome (with the cop yelling at him over the loudspeaker). Why does the picture show them touching? I read somewhere that after they came to a stop, the Prius “surged forward”, but didn’t see a source cited – for all I know, the officer backed his car into the Prius as a precaution. It certainly created a memorable, newsworthy image.

      By the way, I’m a computer programmer, and know it isn’t impossible that the computer that controls everything in the Prius could go haywire – in addition to bugs in the software or bad data coming from the input devices (throttle and brake pedals, shifter-joystick, and even the power button), you could have a circuit board failure – there’s even the possibility of high-energy rays flipping bits in the firmware. But in this particular case, I don’t think there was a failure of any kind – Jim Sykes is a fraud, a liar, and a god-awful actor to boot.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the corrections on the Prius’ brake setup. That certainly erodes the credibility of the story.

    Assuming the story was true, though, could the throttle have gradually or suddenly disengaged before he shut the car off? Do cars with “faded” brakes still have any braking left, or can they go to zero?

    As for Sikes acting, the phone call ends with some very heavy panting. I wonder if someone acting could have gotten themselves into such a state?

    I worked as a computer support person, and as you say, bug-free software systems are difficult to achieve. I’d hate to think Windoze process control software is being used in cars, but I have no idea what they’re using.

    And I wonder if this is related to cruise control.

  • avatar

    Jim and his buddies may have thought that playing this gag on Toyota was a real belly laugh. He may have a different view if Toyota passes the hat his way to help fund the $2B people are claiming this UA thing is costing them.

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