Feds: NY "Runaway" Prius Driver Did Not Hit Brakes

By Tim Minton and Hasani Gittens
|  Thursday, Mar 18, 2010  |  Updated 5:52 PM EDT
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Feds: NY "Runaway" Prius Driver Did Not Hit Brakes

NBCNewYork

Oh, what a feeling: This Toyota Prius allegedly went out of control in Harrison, N.Y., as a 56-year-old woman was leaving her driveway.

Federal investigators' first report on a runaway Toyota Prius in Westchester seems to put blame for the near-tragic accident squarely on the driver.

"Information retrieved from the vehicle's onboard computer systems indicated there was no application of the brakes and the throttle was fully open," the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said in a statement today regarding the accident involving a Toyota Prius in Harrison NY.

Acting Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini, however, blasted the release of the feds' early findings.
 
"It's premature, irresponsible and self-serving to release this information," Marraccini told NBCNewYork. "For one thing, the computer system in that model Prius shows a snapshot, a moment in time only, the moment of impact."
 
He said the electronic systems onboard the 2005 hybrid don't record "what happened in the seconds right before the crash -- much less 20 seconds before. And why would you release any information on a case that's not closed by the local law enforcement agency where it happened. This could undermine the investigation."

As far as the Harrison Police Department's investigation, Marraccini said, "We're not ruling anything out. It could have been driver error, or something else. We need further evaluation and have scheduled a meeting with Toyota engineers for Friday to move the investigation forward."

Meanwhile, Toyota spokesman John Hanson released a statement saying: "The investigation is being handled by the Harrison Police Department and we have no comment on releases by other agencies."

The new revelations come fresh off a high-profile alleged accelerator hoax in California, where onboard computers showed that the driver did not slam on the brakes and pull the hand-brake like he told cops he did.

In California, driver James Sykes claimed he couldn't stop his Toyota for almost a half hour at speeds over 90 miles per hour. The company says that car's electronics show the brakes were working and that the accelerator and brakes were alternately deployed during the incident.

A team of Toyota technicians yesterday showed up with a sophisticated decoder to help find out why a Prius crashed into a Harrison, N.Y. wall.

The New York driver, a 56-year-old housekeeper for the car's owner, claims a stuck accelerator pad caused her to careen out of a driveway and across two lanes of traffic March 9th before smashing a stone wall at a speed police estimate over 40 mph.

After the California incident was described in the media as an alleged hoax, Toyota aggressively moved to inspect the Harrison crash car.

Ten technicians arrived Wednesday morning with two federal inspectors.

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