CHP backs Prius driver’s account


The California Highway Patrol is backing the driver of a Toyota Prius who says his vehicle sped out of control on Interstate 8, even though Toyota says its findings are inconsistent with the man’s account.

In a six-page report released Wednesday, the CHP said there is no evidence and no factual information that the agency knows of that will absolutely disprove the statement given by James Sikes March 8, after his allegedly runaway Prius was stopped on eastbound I-8 in the Boulder Oaks area with the help of a CHP cruiser, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The report comes two days after Toyota announced that the hybrid’s brakes and accelerator worked correctly during their testing and that they couldn’t replicate what Sikes recounted.

The CHP report painted a picture of Sikes as panicked, shaken and desperate to regain control of his car as it approached a steep downgrade at 85 mph, the Union-Tribune reported.

Sikes eventually stopped the Prius after a CHP patrol officer used his cruiser’s public-address system to coach him into disabling the hybrid. The officer, Todd Neibert, said he had to persuade Sikes to talk to media immediately after the incident, the Union-Tribune reported.

Sikes’ attorney, John Gomez, has said his client — who filed for bankruptcy two years ago — doesn’t intend to sue Toyota.

Toyota recently recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide due to acceleration issues.

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 gas pedal trapped by a wrong-sized floor mat.