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Data Puts Another Prius Crash in Question

The "black box" data from a 2005 Toyota Prius that crashed in suburban New York March 9 showed that the driver did not apply the brakes as claimed.

A female housekeeper in Harrison, N.Y. had told police that she had been easing her employer's car out of the driveway when it took off on its own, crashing into a wall across the street.

On Wednesday, investigators from Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - treating the case as another potential example of dangerous "unintended acceleration" that has plagued certain Toyota models - inspected the car.

But on Thursday a NHTSA spokesman, speaking to CBS News Radio's John Hartge, said that the car's event data recorder "indicated there was no application of the brakes and the throttle was fully open."

The car's front end was smashed in, its hood bent upward; it had a broken bumper and headlight, a flat tire and heavy scratches around its Toyota logo, but the driver was not hurt. "This car was preserved well, and it's the best evidence so far, I believe, that anybody's had an opportunity to evaluate," Harrison Police Department Capt. Anthony Marraccini said.

A recent spate of accidents involving Toyota's Prius model has exacerbated scrutiny on the automaker, which has recalled more than 8 million cars since last fall because their gas pedals could become stuck.or be held down by floor mats. The Prius hasn't been recalled for sticky accelerators. However, the wrecked Prius had been repaired for the floor mat problem.

The government is looking into complaints from at least 60 Toyota drivers who say they got their cars fixed and still had problems. Toyota is checking into those complaints as well.

More on Toyota's Troubles:

Complaints Over Fixed Toyotas Jump to 105
Toyota: Prius in NY Crash Yielding Data
Toyota Recall Spending Ranges in Billions
Toyota: Data Refutes Runaway Prius Story
NHTSA: We Can't Explain Runaway Prius
Doubts Persist on Runaway Prius Story
Calif. Prius Driver's Story Stirs Skeptics
Calif. Prosecutor Sues Toyota Over Defects

At the same time, Toyota has implied that it is suspicious of a recent spike in accounts of unintended acceleration and other problems following the negative publicity the company has received for its recalls.

"Claims of unintended acceleration have inexplicably skyrocketed," Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said Monday.

The Harrison investigation follows Toyota's probe into the claims of a California driver who said he was unable to stop his runaway Prius on a freeway last week until a state trooper helped him. The company held a news conference Monday and said the driver's account was substantially different from its findings.

Toyota said tests on James Sikes' car showed its gas pedal, backup safety system and electronics were working fine. It was unable to replicate the stuck gas pedal that Sikes reported.

The automaker said Monday that it found owner James Sikes rapidly pressed the gas and brakes back and forth 250 times, the maximum amount of data that the car's self-diagnostic system can collect. That account appears to contradict Sikes' statements - backed by the California Highway Patrol - that he slammed the brakes, even lifting his buttocks off the seat.

Toyota officials said they believed Sikes hit the pedals lightly, which would have prevented a brake-override system from kicking in. Under the Prius design, engine power is cut if the brake pedal is pressed with moderate force.

Toyota stopped short of saying that Sikes fabricated his story.

"We have no opinion on his account, what he's been saying, other than the scenario is not consistent with the technical findings," Michels said at a news conference.