Even amidst Toyota’s efforts to rebuild its brand, appease consumers, and testify to committees and the press its dedication to the aforementioned, the car company continues to face bad press as another tale of a runaway Prius is added to the mix. 61 year-old James Sikes called the police yesterday when his Toyota Prius experienced a brake failure, as the driver sped up on the highway to pass a car.
After 20 minutes, an officer drove alongside Sikes and spoke to him using a loudspeaker. The officer, according to the L.A. Times, told Sikes to engage the emergency brake pedal as well as the brake pedal, which slowed the anxious driver down to 50 mph. The officer then told Sikes to turn off the engine, allowing the driver to eventually roll to a stop.
While the story of Sikes’ rescue is heroic on the part of the officer that helped him, there are still details not yet revealed regarding Sikes and his Prius. Though Sikes’ Prius was one of the 4 million recalled this year, it is still unknown whether or not Sikes had taken his vehicle in to address the known brake problem.
As additional reports arise of recalled Priuses not being repaired properly. Though 1 million cars have already been worked on, a reported 60 Prius owners have complained of ongoing issues with the vehicle’s brake system. Toyota could face more stringent demands from federal regulators if its recall proves ineffective in returning safe cars back to the consumers. It would also result in even more bad press for Toyota, as it aims to convince the world of its dedication to preemptive safety.
The byproduct of any major errors regarding the recall and repair process could lead Toyota and Prius drivers down an entirely different legal battle. Over 50 deaths have been attributed to Prius’ brake issues, which is bad enough. Should the death toll continue to increase, accountability surrounding the Prius and its known problems could fall on Toyota as well as certain drivers, in some possible circumstances.
I hope it doesn’t come to that day, where Toyota or its drivers are considered for accountability in future Prius-related deaths–I’d of course rather that these known issues be dealt with in a responsible manner. Today’s story of a rescued driver in another runaway Prius reminds us all that we need to do the responsible thing; our decisions most certainly do have an affect on each other.