By on March 11, 2010

“I couldn’t stop the car.” Killer Prius driver Hippsley. Picture courtesy

On September 19, 2008, William Hippsley, 74, was behind the wheel in the parking lot of a shopping center in Brigg, South Humberside, UK. Outside, his wife Brenda, 69, helped him park his car. Suddenly, Hippsley’s car shot forward, dragged his wife 130ft across the parking lot – and killed her.

The car was a Toyota Prius.

Three months after the incident, Hippsley said in a police interview that the car had lunged forward and that the brake had failed. “But by that time Hippsley, of Searby, Lincs, had heard reports of Prius acceleration problems in the US,” noted the SUN.

Checks on the car by police and Toyota could find no defects. Now finally, Hippsley had his two days in court. Prosecutor Simon Waley blamed an “error committed in panic”. He called the acceleration claim “a measure of psychological self-protection”.

After hearing the case, Judge David Tremberg discharged the jurors from their duties. According to the Scunthorpe Telegraph, the judge told the jury: “The prosecution say this defendant was involved in this tragic accident as a result of his own fault – his own negligence. The defence say this was a case of sudden unintentional acceleration, a concept they say is known to exist.”

Judge Tremberg instructed the jury: “There is a House of Representatives committee in America dealing with this very issue now. We are being drip fed further critical information from America at every adjournment. There is a real danger that you might not be equipped with what you need to deliver a fair verdict.”

The Jury was sent home. Hippsley was released on unconditional bail. The trial is on hold, pending further reports and inspections of Hippsley’s vehicle.

The trial will return to court in six to eight weeks, says the Mirror.

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27 Comments on “You Can Kill Your Wife – As Long As You Do It In A Prius...”

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd

    Well, this should spur Toyota Prius sales….

    Seriously, though, as the Judge said, there’s not yet enough information. It hasn’t helped that Toyota has been less than forthcoming with data and information.

    • 0 avatar

      There wasn’t enough info on the Audi in 1986 either.

      It took three years for NHTSA to conclude in 1989 that “drivers’ ”misapplying” their feet to gas and brake pedals was the principal cause of sudden, uncontrolled acceleration”.

    • 0 avatar
      Tricky Dicky

      That’s easy to say Todd, but what sort of information exactly do you think it would be helpful for Big-T to disclose (assuming that is is actually available to them).

      Precisely what data do you think would reassure that they were acting with the highest level of professionalism, both on a corporate and an engineering level? And then, out of interest, under what conditions would you disclose this info if it was your company and you had no regulatory mandate for disclosure? I’m genuinely interested in yours and others opinions on this.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit Todd

      I think it would be helpful for Toyota to move their black box data to an open source system like other automakers, and stop with the absurd falsehood that “there’s just one laptop in the entire country capable of reading a Toyota data recorder.”

      It would also be helpful for Toyota to comply with discovery requests instead of paying people off in lawsuits simply to avoid releasing data.

      Recalls and/or defective cars are not a grievous sin. Automobiles are incredibly complex and mistakes will be made by all manufacturers.

      The sin is in refusing to release data, blaming floor mats, blaming drivers, etc., instead of focusing their efforts on finding and correcting their mistakes.

    • 0 avatar

      So Toyota is supposed to “solve” this crime?
      Computers can do many things but may not be able to help. The only thing the computer can tell you is about values of sensors that are reporting. There is no requirement for reporting as of yet (see you in 2012). I am also not aware that other manufacturers are using “open” systems. The manufacturers will supply the data required of them at the time required. Not before.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit Todd

      From Newsweek, 2/12/20:

      In theory these black boxes could help explain what’s causing the sudden acceleration problems that led Toyota to recall millions of vehicles. There’s just one catch: Toyota keeps its data secret. Ford, GM, and Chrysler’s black boxes use an open platform that allows law-enforcement officials to download data.

    • 0 avatar

      A small blurb in Newsweek isn’t enough detail.
      NHTSA has some upcoming “standards” – those standards? Conformance to those standards isn’t required yet. I am not trying to be a nuisance, but legal is legal. And not supplying the data today is what is legally allowed.
      Or is it some other “standard”?
      What data is required to be supplied? temperature of the coolant? brake pressure? outdoor temperature? breathalyzer results for the driver? There are many unanswered questions.
      I repeat, the computer cannot deliver answers to things it doesn’t have any sensors for.
      If the acceleration reason cannot be seen in the “standard” data from the computer then the computer cannot give you the solution. What if it something unanticipated (by federal bureaucrats writing the “standard” years ago) is the reason for the acceleration? What about a “jammed floormat” sensor?

    • 0 avatar

      The NHTSA has requested some information from Toyota on their Event Data Recorders (EDRs).

      It would be interesting to know the evolution of what was (and is) being recorded and for how long for each of the EDR models they installed from day 1.

      I am generally not a conspiracy theorist, but if the trend lines show a solid relationship between the immerging UA incidents and the rapid decline of EDR functionality, I would be very close to concluding what many have been suggesting: Toyota is aggressively hiding data, preventing data collection, mis-directing what the data shows, and generally throwing roadblocks in the way of legitimate avenues of inquiry.

      What did they know and when did they know it? When will we find out?

  • avatar

    Can Paulie Walnuts-type enforcers now use a Prius or a Camry to whack deadbeats and degenerate gamblers who owe?

    Or are such cars just TOO much out of character to be considered?

    I’ll run this by my Italian brother in law and report back…

    • 0 avatar

      No problem, you just have to order the gold trim option. The hybrids are even better, especially if they have the silent EV mode. Then you’ve got the “he just walked in front of me – I was in EV mode and maybe he didn’t hear me coming” excuse as well as the stuck throttle.

    • 0 avatar

      In an episode of Weeds, this gang banger buys blacked out Priora for his entire gang. The main character, Nancy, doesn’t know how to take this. “A Prius?”

      “Yeah, they’re real quiet. Good for sneaking up on motherfuckers.”

  • avatar


    It’s not just Americans who have trouble driving Toyotas…it must be endemic to those who speak English as their native language!

    Must have something to do with all of those homonyms and strange “gh” pronunciations that those drivers use.

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    Enuff already…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Does England have the same beyond a reasonable doubt standard for criminal convictions as the US does? In a US criminal trial the question isn’t weather the accused might have done the crime or even if the accused most likely did the crime. The question is whether or not the accused did the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in the minds of ALL of the jurors. The current brouhaha around Toyotas and SUA certainly would raise some reasonable doubt in the minds of one or more jurors as to why Mr. Hippsley’s car ran over his wife.

    Note that in this case the prosecution isn’t even accusing Mr. Hippsley of intentionally killing his wife. They are prosecuting him for what they say is a tragic mistake. The prosecution is lucky the judge delayed the case instead of simply dismissing it.

    Also, consider for a minute the possibility that the old man did run over his wife by mistake. If so, what exactly would be gained by tossing him into prison for it? Would you be taking a serial killer off the streets?

    • 0 avatar

      If so, what exactly would be gained by tossing him into prison for it? Would you be taking a serial killer off the streets?

      Deterrence. Some other seniors who shouldn’t be driving will stop.

      Nice serial killer crack. He doesn’t have to do 25 years. Weekends in jail would be a nice step.

      Note that the senior who mowed down those people at the Cali Farmer’s Market walked – with probation. The sorry thing is that we accept these sort of ‘accidents’.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh please. “I should quit driving because I’m not competent and might kill somebody” isn’t a deterrent, but “I might kill somebody AND GO TO JAIL” is? Sorry, people with poor judgment don’t get wiser when faced with the possibility of jail time. Deterrence can effect intent, but these deaths aren’t intentional.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Russycle:
      Sorry, people with poor judgment don’t get wiser when faced with the possibility of jail time.

      Then why punish at all? Since the current penalties are such a freakin’ joke, get rid of them completely!

      Sorry, but peoples’ collective judgment often DOES change when faced with more dire consequence.

      Deterrence can effect intent, but these deaths aren’t intentional.

      Deterrence can effect recklessness. These deaths are reckless.

  • avatar

    This headline is beneath the normal standards of TTAC.
    According to the prosecutor, “this defendant was involved in this tragic accident as a result of his own fault – his own negligence.” Well, thank goodness for get tough on crime prosecutors who get elected/appointed by playing on people’s fears.
    I cannot tell you all how much safer I would feel if this 74 year old man, who committed, at worst, a “tragic accident,” would be locked away at a cost of some 30,000 dollars a year.

  • avatar

    It sounds like the trial is put on hold. He hasn’t been acquitted of anything yet. Honestly, it sounds like it might be the right thing to do. Toyota has already had a pedal and floor mat recall. There is a recall coming for the Prius. Saying that the investigation didn’t find anything wrong with the vehicle isn’t really surprising because the NHTSA didn’t find any defects after at least 2 separate investigations. Delaying the trial sounds like absolutely the right thing to do.

  • avatar

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict the coming of the “Prius Shuffle” – in which those approaching a Prius occupied by someone in the driver’s seat contrive to circle behind or swing wide. “That turd won’t get me with a #*&@ing Prius,” they’ll be thinking as they add steps to their journey. Yup, a true and public test of commitment it will be. “Honey, I trust you. See, I walk right in front of your Prius!”

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Braking Bad” By Richard A. Schmidt, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and Op-Ed Contributor, in The New York Times on March 11, 2010 at p. A31:

    “But based on my experience in the 1980s helping investigate unintended acceleration in the Audi 5000, I suspect that smart pedals cannot solve the problem. The trouble, unbelievable as it may seem, is that sudden acceleration is very often caused by drivers who press the gas pedal when they intend to press the brake.”

    * * *

    “Yet the automatic shift lock did not entirely do away with sudden acceleration incidents — as the Toyota problems illustrate. The fix now championed by the Obama administration could work in situations in which there is an actual vehicle defect. It would tell the car that if it receives signals to both accelerate and brake, the accelerator should go dead so that the brake alone will work.

    “But this smart-pedal system can be of no use if the driver is simply pressing the accelerator and not touching the brake. The unintended acceleration — and the crash — would still occur.”


    My rule of thumb is that if a wife is dead, her husband killed her, intentionally.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    In Minnesota, a jury that convicted a man for vehicular homicide in 2006 wants him released because he was driving a 2006 Camry. He claims the brakes gave out. The cops said it must have been pedal misapplication.

  • avatar

    No offence to the guy, I’m sure he’s suffering enough knowing that his wife died due to his own actions… however…
    I get the feeling that very soon anyone involved in an accident in a Prius will be waving the ‘unintended accelerator/no brakes’ flag the moment they do something dumb on the road.

  • avatar

    Bertel Schmitt,

    Did you watch last night’s or the most recent episode of Every thursday a bunch of (semi-well known)car types get together to do a talk show…

    Longest story short..
    They were debating these pius Prius issues.

    One of the biggest problems they believed is driver error, and that error gets wider when the age rises, 50+.

    As bad as I feel for this guy and his wife…
    It could have very well happened…

    • 0 avatar

      This may be what you are referring to:

      I really would have liked to re-write John McElroy questions, which nearly all seemed staged to bring out Toyota’s polished, user-group reviewed responses.

      Don Esmond, Senior VP Automotive Operations, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Topic delivered many answers that should not have went unchallenged. Instead, Mr. McElroy just moved on to the next question from his notes.

      A telling point came out that Toyota has 40 million electronic-throttle vehicles on U.S. roads. I’d hire a couple dozen NHTSA employees myself to head off any kind of recall of that magnitude.

    • 0 avatar


      While I do appreciate the link, but it isn’t what I was referring to.

      They do a weekly show, that airs at 7p online.
      I will do my best to check it out.

      Included is the link I was referring to:

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