There’s something fishy about James Sikes’ story. The California motorist claims his Toyota Prius suffered a malfunction that wouldn’t allow him to slow down. With the car accelerating in excess of 80 miles per hour he reached down and tried to pull the accelerator up in order to get the car under control.
He called 911 where an operator implored him to shift the car into neutral. Sikes didn’t say anything, but later claimed that he was reticent to shift into neutral for fear of “flipping” the car.
This doesn’t add up. Sikes is 61 which means he’s been driving a long time. I’m sure at some point he had to push a car and if so he would have realized that neutral is, well, neutral. It’s not another gear, nor does it feature a drive train-locking mechanism like ‘park’. If Sikes simply forgot the neutral nature of the neutral shifter position then he’s an incompetent driver who should be fined as such.
All vehicles are subject to malfunction and it is the driver’s responsibility to be prepared to deal with his vehicle in the event of such a malfunction. Sike’s betrayed the public trust betowed upon him when he was issued his license by failing to deal with his malfunctioning Toyota Prius in a calm, cool and collected manor.
This story is a little too convenient. Sikes claims he went to Toyota to get his accelerator fixed but was told that his car isn’t on the recall list. Shortly thereafter Sikes is on national TV reenacting a scene from Speed in his hybrid. The networks jump all over the story and Sikes has been interviewed more times than Drew Brees after the Super Bowl. It’s too perfect.
Let me be among the first to call bullshit on the whole story. Look, I don’t own a Toyota and I have no interest in their stock doing well. They screwed up and no they’re paying the price. They’re getting what they deserved.
But Sikes has gone too far. I think this is a hoax. Sikes wants his cut and he either faked the malfunction or he rigged his accelerator to fail on the highway. When the 911 operator undermined his 15 minutes with the simple solution of putting the car in neutral, Sikes panicked and simply ignored the instruction. When the instruction was repeated, he continued to ignore. After the car was finally brought to a stop, Sikes came up with the lame excuse of flipping the car as a reason not to shift out of gear.
There’s a possibility that Sikes’ Toyota went haywire. Maybe Toyota was hoping to keep its popular hybrid out of the fray and another chicken came home to roost, but Sikes’ brush with disaster was too neatly packaged.
I’m going to put myself out there and say that in three or four months, Sikes might be facing criminal charges. He’ll be tagged as a hoaxer and because he let his scam play out on a public highway, Sikes will be charged with reckless endangerment in addition to the various fraud charges the courts will throw at him.
Granted, I’ve got nothing to lose if I’m wrong so it’s pretty easy to play devil’s advocate, but there’s a lot of stink coming off of Sikes. I think he’s a fraud.