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    Toyota Prius driver James Sikes spoke with reporters after his runaway incident on a San Diego freeway on March 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

    by: Michael Zak, AOL Autos
     

    Did the driver of a runaway Toyota Prius in San Diego tell the truth when he said his accelerator pedal stuck earlier this week? New evidence is calling the driver's credibility into question, although the real answer will not be entirely clear until Toyota and the NHTSA announce the results of their investigation. Details about the driver, James Sikes, leave many wondering if he had ulterior motives for his claims.

    USA Today and Jalopnik.com are directly asking the question as to whether or not he faked the incident, citing previous issues with debt and repeated insurance claims as reason for their doubts.

    The reports indicate that prior to his unintended acceleration incident, James Sikes and his wife -- both realtors -- found themselves grappling with California's notorious housing bubble and filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Reports show they have $700,000 in debt to their names. He already had a motor home, Mercedes-Benz automobile and Dodge Truck repossessed in the proceedings with creditors.

    Among the creditors to whom he owes payments is Toyota Financial Services. Various reports indicate that Sikes is either current with his payments or behind by five months on the 2008 Toyota Prius involved in this week's incident, which has 7,200 miles on it and is valued at $20,494.

    Are All Claims Real?

    If everyone who gets into a car accident or gets caught speeding is driving a Toyota, should we assume they're experiencing sudden acceleration? The question is an uncomfortable one: if every incident involving a Toyota could be blamed on the company and not the driver, it gives a free pass (albeit a frightening one) to those who choose to exploit it.

    For example, in the first 10 weeks of 2009, there were 272 complaints filed to NHTSA in the U.S. for speed control issues with the Prius, according to Associated Press reports. In all of 2008 there were only 74 and just 8 in 2007.

    If Sikes's claims were fake, he played a convincing hand. At the time of the incident, all signs pointed to his experience as being authentic.

    "I won't drive that car again, period," he told reporters.

    Furthermore, the recording of his 911 call, since released, was evidence of the situation's authenticity; unless Sikes was an actor of the highest order, we can't imagine how he'd fake this incident.

    Perhaps even more damaging are reports that Sikes has a long history of items being stolen from him, for which he then filed insurance claims.

    Skeptics of Sikes also cite the 911 tape that was released shortly after the incident. During the tape, the dispatcher repeatedly told Sikes to put the car in neutral in order to stop it from accelerating. Sikes did not comply with her instructions or the instructions of the officer on the scene who told him to do the same thing via his public address system as they tore down the highway.

    What Do You Think?
    Did Sikes fake unintended acceleration in his Prius?

    Beyond the call itself, the Associated Press reports that Sikes's car was equipped with a brake override system, something that should have slowed the car down once he stomped on the brake pedal.

    Sikes claimed he thought that would "flip the car."

    "I've since found out that's not possible, but I had no idea," Sikes told USA Today. "Hopefully, I helped save five to 10 lives because people are now finding out" how to put a moving Prius into neutral.

    Until Toyota and the NHTSA release the results of their investigation, there won’t be any real answers.

    Do you think Sikes was telling the truth? Let us know in the comments section below and vote in our poll.

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    Discuss
    1 - 20 of 2937 Comments
    donaldburnet Oct 17, 2010 6:22 PM
    He's a big fat liar. And I love my 2004 Prius.
    Report This
    mikeiron1234 Aug 14, 2010 5:33 AM
    no way would anyone ever screw over BP to make a fast buck as a fisherman
    Report This
    paul4858 Aug 13, 2010 9:19 PM
    I'm calling bull **** on these people.
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    dusty754 Jul 26, 2010 7:11 PM
    Amazing. People just don't realize that the braking system in automobiles are designed to stop the thing even under full acceleration. I had a 1978 Chevy Monte Carlo. I had some work done on it and after I got it back. I was accelerating to get on a freeway and the accelerator stuck. Since I could not pull the thing off the floor. I simply pushed on the brake which slowed the car to a stop then I shofted into neutral and killed the engine. Got out of the vehicle, and opened the hood. Seems that the little trouble light that is mounted under the hood had loosened and fallen into the throttle linkage area of the engine, preventing the throttle from returning to its closed position. But, I just stepped on the brake pedal and the car slowed. I had to step harder than normal, but the fact is the brake did stop the car.
    Report This
    sunsetsonly Jul 26, 2010 5:17 PM
    I have to agree with Macboardz on this, even in the research we have done there is not a car on the market that will not shift into neutral no matter what speed
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    faracifam Jul 26, 2010 5:17 PM
    Yes, he was telling the truth, " I am driving a Prius.!!!." beyond that, Hmmmmmm!!!!!
    Report This
    darrellchampion Jul 26, 2010 4:17 PM
    Instead of just driving these destroyers of America, you bunch of traitors could just stick them up your a$$e$.
    Report This
    umpier Jul 26, 2010 3:38 PM
    no
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    fmschira Jul 25, 2010 7:24 PM
    Yes he faked ****** an insult to ones intellegence to think otherwise.
    Report This
    artlaing Jul 22, 2010 3:01 PM
    I agree with Macboardz. The man is pulling a fast one Yankee
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    danniboyfish Jun 30, 2010 9:41 PM
    Toyota expert said she, note this, the car stoped when he smashed aginst the wall at , really listen to this, at 8 miles per hour.the car is completelly ruined.the garage gates are totally destroyed. PLEASE KEEP ON BUYNG TOYOTA, HOPE YOU HAVE A NICE FUNERAL.people stay sharp and be aware never buy TOYOTA again
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    danniboyfish Jun 30, 2010 9:32 PM
    the only real thing i know is that my mother almost died yesterday.she is 68 years old .she was parking her car into to her garage.she never lies.she was driving a Corolla. she says when the car took off on his onw like having life of his own she pulled the hand break and the pedal break.he went faster against the inside wall of the garage througth the garage closen gates.that is the only real thing y know on this
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    macboardz Jun 09, 2010 4:48 PM
    What a liar. He's almost a million in Debt, he has a history of filing dubious insurance claims, he runs an adult dating website, and didn't have the foresight to get out of real-estate while the getting was good. Now he's going to try and make someone else pay for his mistakes. The idiot couldn't roll up his window while driving down the highway in order to communicate clearly with a 911 operator when his life is in danger? He was too afraid to move his hand off the wheel to reach 6 inches for the shifter (On the dash next to the wheel) but could reach 35 inches to the accelerator pedal? In order to even try and reach the pedal, you'd have to squash your face into the stereo and take your eyes off the road. (Going 94 MPH? I don't think so!) Even at 6'1" with 33 inch length arms, I cannot reach the pedal on a Prius when it is fully depressed. He was willing to try that, but not to take his hand off the wheel to touch a shifter 6 inches away? Also, give me a break. This guy is going to pretend that he knows nothing about cars, yet he DRIVES CONSTANTLY as a real-estate agent for years to make a living? I'm sorry, not buying it. I guarantee you he did a lot of research before buying his Prius. If he can handle the complexities of being a Realtor, he cannot be so stupid as to believe that the car will flip if he puts it in neutral. There are so many ways to stop a Prius, it's almost ridiculous. Turn the car off, and it will coast to a stop. press the brakes, and it will slow down, push the emergency brake, Put it in neutral, put it in "B" to slow it down gradually. There's no excuse for this guy. Some judge should throw the book at him for wasting everyone's time and attempting to be a con-artist. Somebody should slap all the journalists who initially believed every word of this clap-trap without doing their due dilligence and engaging in a bit of investigation of the claims. Bah the stupidity is mind-boggling.
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    planetsole May 11, 2010 12:12 PM
    Liar, liar, liar!
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    majorg1000 May 11, 2010 12:02 PM
    I think chvy70camero has more issues than just Toyotas or President Obama. Please do not sell any guns to this man.
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    eugpenn123 May 08, 2010 11:14 AM
    galtonecleanbmw Apr 19, 2010 2:16 PM chvy70camaro your a idiot if there wasnt this great country of ours your beloved gm would be history.by the way whats with your tough guy attitude ill put u over my knee any day of the week u choose u *****.------- IF the MORONS who put ole barry the Socialist Muslim and his LIB DEM CRONIES in office, would have had any common sense, THEY wouldn;t be DAILY DESTROYING our Great country now!!!! GM was doing FINE until these LIB DEM IDIOTS put all of their ridiculous PC CRAP regulations on them!! IF these LIB DEM MORONS would let us drill our OWN oil, we would have NO oil shortage and we would be driving the cars we WANT, NOT the CRAP these LIB DEMS cram down our throats!!!!!!!!!! Thanks to the LIB DEM and ENVIRO IDIOTS, we are in this MESS!!!!!!!!!!! GM would be dominating the market NOT Toyota and we would have JOBS!!!!!!!!!
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    galtonecleanbmw Apr 19, 2010 2:16 PM
    chvy70camaro your a idiot if there wasnt this great country of ours your beloved gm would be history.by the way whats with your tough guy attitude ill put u over my knee any day of the week u choose u *****.
    Report This
    baburob Apr 19, 2010 10:58 AM
    my subaru once acce;lerated unexpectactly on the high way using cruise control, did it once and hasnt since
    Report This
    lilbluethunder49 Apr 19, 2010 8:04 AM
    I think Sikes is a liar
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    drlillen Apr 10, 2010 10:15 PM
    I obviously can't know if he was telling the truth, but I am pretty sure he did not read his owner's manual. I have a 2008 Prius and I DID read the 512 page manual that came with it (so what's the big deal about a 2,000 page health care bill?). The manual very clearly states that in an emergency you can shut down the hybrid drive system completely by simply pushing the power button and HOLDING IT DOWN FOR AT LEAST 3 SECONDS. Query - what did Toyota know that we might not know which made them put that in the book. drlillen@aol.com
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