Wednesday, March 10, 2010

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — The driver of a Toyota Prius told police in suburban New York that the car accelerated on its own, then lurched down a driveway, across a road and into a stone wall.

The 2005 Prius was driving forward Tuesday down a curving driveway, which is several hundred feet long and has a putting green next to it, when the accident happened. The driver, a 56-year-old housekeeper, escaped serious injury.

“The impact with the wall was pretty substantial,” Harrison police Capt. Anthony Marraccini said.

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.

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.

Police were investigating the cause of the crash, but Marraccini said a floor mat issue at the heart of many of the recalls did not appear to be a factor. The vehicle had been serviced by Toyota and the floor mats were secured, he said.

“The driver reported to us that the car accelerated while she was exiting her driveway and she lost control of the car,” Marraccini said. He said she was lucky not to collide with traffic as the car crossed a street.

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. The car was in a police parking lot on Wednesday. The front end was severely pushed in, the hood was buckled and the front bumper was broken.

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

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

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