Friday, March 12, 2010

More on James Sikes's Prius

Over a 23-minute period the 911 dispatcher repeatedly pleaded with Sikes to shift into neutral. He simply refused and then essentially stopped talking to her except to say that he thought he could smell his brakes burning. ...

He told CNN, "I was afraid to try to [reach] over there and put it in neutral. I was holding onto the steering wheel with both hands--94 miles an hour in a Toyota Prius is fast." Yet for much of the ride he had a phone in one hand. And this is especially interesting: Most gear shifts are on the console, requiring the hand to drop to shift. But, as this image shows, in the 2008 Prius it's located on the dash within inches of the steering wheel precisely to allow shifting without the hand leaving the wheel. I sat in one and did it easily.  ...

Sikes said his brakes had just been checked out a few weeks earlier, but during the incident he "was laying on the brakes. It was not slowing down." ...

Others have made similar claims, so Car & Driver magazine recently put them to the test. They found a V-6 Camry at full throttle could be stopped at 435 feet. But to really test the claim, they used a powerful 540-horsepower supercharged Roush Stage 3 Mustang. It took 903 feet, but stop it did. ... A video on the Web also demonstrates a 2008 Prius easily slowed to a stop with the accelerator fully depressed. ...

Now here's the potential smoking gun: Sikes told the reporters that "I was reaching down and trying to pull up on the gas pedal. It didn't move at all; it was stationary." That's awfully daring for somebody who insisted he didn't even want to take a hand off his steering wheel, notwithstanding that he did so to hold his phone. ...

I tried to imitate Sikes' alleged effort in a 2008 Prius. ... Only the tallest men could physically do what Sikes claimed he did and no press accounts refer his being exceptionally tall. ...

So why did he do it? Sleuth work at the Web sites Jalopnik.com and Gawker.com reveals that Sikes and his wife Patty in 2008 filed for bankruptcy and are over $700,000 in debt. Among their creditors is Toyota Financial Services for a lease on a 2008 Toyota Prius, with value at time of bankruptcy of $20,494. ...

Sikes also has a history of filing insurance claims for allegedly stolen items that are slowly coming to light.
--Michael Fumento, Forbes, on some smoking guns

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