Westchester Prius Goes Out of Control

Floor mat not a factor: Police Chief

By Tracie Strahan
|  Wednesday, Mar 10, 2010  |  Updated 3:59 PM EDT
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Woman Driver Blames Toyota for Car Crash

NBCNewYork.com

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

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Woman Driver Blames Toyota for Car Crash

Harrison womans says she couldn't stop and smashed into a wall when her Toyota sped out of control.
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Whoa, what a feeling.

Police in Westchester County are analyzing a 2005 Toyota Prius that crashed after the driver said its accelerator stuck.

The 2005 Prius hit a stone wall on Tuesday, toppling boulders. Luckily, the driver, a 56-year-old woman, escaped serious injury.

Harrison Acting Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said it appeared the floor mat was not a factor and the problems started as soon as the woman left her garage.

"She lost control exiting the driveway, jumped the curb, and then crossed two lanes of traffic on Purchase Street, crashing into the stone wall," said Marraccini. "The impact with the wall was pretty substantial."

The air bags deployed when the car hit the stone wall of the estate across the street. On Wednesday, five boulders and smaller filler stones were strewn about — some 10 feet from the wall. Broken glass, plastic headlight pieces and metal that looked like part of a window frame were nearby.

The car's owner, Joseph Leff, said his family's housekeeper had been behind the wheel. He declined to identify her or say whether she was back at work.

"She's a wonderful driver," said Leff. "It's not her fault. It's the car."

Police kept the vehicle for investigation. 
    
Toyota is fighting fears that the crashes are caused by faulty electronics rather than by mechanical problems. Representatives at the company's U.S. sales headquarters in Torrance, Calif., did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide. In some cases, floor mats can cause the accelerator to stick.

Marraccini said the Westchester Prius had been serviced by Toyota and the floor mats were secured.

On Monday, California police stopped a runaway Prius going nearly 85 mph. The driver said the pedal jammed.

Toyota has recalled some 8.5 million vehicles worldwide — more than 6 million in the United States — because of acceleration problems in multiple models and braking issues in the Prius.

Toyota representatives at the company's U.S. sales headquarters in Torrance, Calif., did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Leff said he had called Toyota but had not heard back yet.

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