Driver Error to Blame in Westchester Prius Case: Police

In a separate case in California, investigators also exonerated the Prius

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCNewYork
    This Toyota Prius went out of control in Harrison, N.Y. as a 56-year-old woman was leaving her driveway, the driver told police.

    Driver error caused the crash of a Toyota Prius in Westchester earlier this month and not a faulty gas pedal, both police and federal regulators have found.

         Capt. Anthony Marraccini of the Harrison Police Department said  today there was no mechanical or electrical failure in the car, a finding that capped a two week probe of the incident.   He said the gas pedal was depressed all the way at the point of impact and that there was no sign of any application of the brake when the Prius smashed into a stone wall at a private residence on March 9.
        
    The finding concurs with U.S. safety regulators who said last week that the car's computers showed the throttle was open and the brakes were not applied.

    A 56-year-old housekeeper driving the 2005 Prius in Harrison on March 9 reported that it sped up on its own down a driveway despite her breaking. It slammed into a stone wall but she was not seriously hurt.

    Toyota issued a statement today saying it "sympathizes" with any family or individual involved in any accident.  "We also remain committed to investigating reported incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly, as in Harrison, New York, and we will continue to work in close partnership with law enforcement agencies and federal regulators with jurisdiction over accident scenes whenever requested," the statement said.

    Just days before the Harrison incident, another Prius driver in San Diego said his car sped out of control while on a freeway. 

    But federal investigators and Toyota engineers said they were unable to replicate the incident.  A lawyer for that driver said he is sticking by his account of the story.

    "We also remain committed to investigating reported incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly, as in Harrison, New York, and we will continue to work in close partnership with law enforcement agencies and federal regulators with jurisdiction over accident scenes whenever requested," the statement said.

    Toyota has had to fend off intense public backlash over safety after recalls of some 8.5 million vehicles worldwide -- more than 6 million in the United States -- because of acceleration and floor mat problems in multiple models and braking issues in the Prius. Regulators have linked 52 deaths to crashes allegedly caused by accelerator problems.