CHP assists Prius owner in stopping speeding car


The owner of a Toyota Prius that sped out-of-control on Interstate 8 received a recall notice but later was told his car didn’t need work, it was reported Monday.

California Highway Patrol officer Todd Niebert used his cruiser’s public-address system to instruct James Sikes, 61, on how to stop the car after a stuck accelerator caused it to speed out of control on eastbound I-8 in the Lakeside area early Monday afternoon.

In recent months, Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide due to acceleration issues.

Sikes said he had received a recall notice for his car but wasn’t sure what it was for, so he went to the dealership, Toyota of El Cajon, for clarification, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. He was told his car was not on the recall list, according to the newspaper.

The automaker released a statement following Monday’s incident, saying the company dispatched a technical specialist to San Diego “to investigate the report and offer assistance.”

Sikes tried in vain to slow down, then made a 911 call around 1:30 p.m. after the hybrid reached speeds of more than 90 mph, CHP Officer Brian Pennings said.

Highway Patrol personnel caught up with the blue car near Kitchen Creek Road, and one officer pulled up alongside and used his loudspeaker to talk Sikes through the process of slowing down by using his emergency brake and then turning off the engine.

The officer pulled in front of the car as it decelerated and rolled to a stop and put the rear bumper of the squad car against the front end of the Prius.

“The vehicles did not touch until after they came to a stop,” Pennings said.

Last August, off-duty CHP Officer Mark Saylor was killed along with his wife, her brother and the Saylors’ 13-year-old daughter after the accelerator of the Lexus ES350 they were in got stuck as they drove on State Route 125 in La Mesa.

Minutes later, the Toyota-manufactured loaner vehicle slammed into the back of a sport utility vehicle at Mission Gorge Road in Santee at about 100 mph, careened off the freeway, hit an embankment, overturned and burst into flames. All four family members died at the scene.

Sheriff’s investigators determined that the deadly crash was caused by a sticking gas pedal trapped by a wrong-sized floor mat. What caused the stuck-pedal problem on the Prius Monday wasn’t immediately determined.