Minnesota doctor says his Toyota Prius nearly killed him

6:54 PM, Mar 10, 2010   |    comments
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ROCHESTER, Minn. -- As a recently retired Mayo Clinic physician, Alan Hoffman has spent a career saving lives. He says his 2007 Toyota Prius nearly cost him his.

"My issue is really a public health issue," said Hoffman about his December crash in Palatine, Illinois where he had driven his Prius to attend a medical convention.

According to Hoffman he had just shifted the car into reverse in a hotel parking lot, when it accelerated backwards at a high rate of speed. "This was flying," he said. "My guess is 35 or 40 miles an hour."

As it crossed the parking lot, Hoffman's Prius glanced off a parked car, jumped a curb and tore through a row of bushes. It eventually veered left and came to rest within feet of a busy highway.

"I could have easily been killed in this," he said from his home Tuesday. "I almost went out onto a four lane highway at rush hour."

Hoffman insists he slammed on the brakes with both feet and held them there as soon as the Prius took off, something he said he and his wife had practiced. "There was a little sign my wife had put on the dashboard. We had actually prepared for a sudden acceleration."

The car was towed to a nearby Toyota dealer, with an estimated $7,000 in damage. After a road test Toyota sent Hoffman a letter saying, "...no abnormal braking or acceleration problem was found." A spokesperson for Toyota told KARE 11 the company does not comment on individual cases.

As another apparent sudden acceleration of a Prius makes news this week in California, Hoffman is glad to be rid of his.

He's donated his damaged car to the engineering school at Northwestern University. "We weren't going to drive it again, but we didn't want other people to drive it again."

Hoffman hopes a planned study of his car by students at the university might help solve the sudden acceleration mystery.

"This was a car that was great for 34,000 miles. But those last two seconds were really bad."  


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