KANSAS CITY, MO. - An Ames woman whose accelerator got stuck as she drove up Interstate Highway 35 in Missouri managed to control the vehicle even as speeds topped 110 mph and she was forced to the median several times to avoid other drivers, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.
Patrol spokesman Sheldon Lyon praised Lauri Ulvestad, 47, for not crashing her 2011 Kia Sorento as she weaved through traffic and aconstruction zone with no way to slow down.
"Not only to drive fast, but to go into the median, pull back up into the passing lane and hit that asphalt lip - and not overcorrect - it was really amazing to see her do that repeatedly," Lyon said.
Ulvestad was driving north on the interstate near Bethany, Mo., on Sunday when she realized her accelerator was stuck. Panicked, she called 911 and soon two state troopers caught up with her. One pulled in front of her to alert traffic ahead, while the other stayed behind her.
Lyon said the three cars covered 59 miles in 35 minutes before the woman's vehicle suddenly slowed and came to a stop on the inside shoulder near Osceola, Ia., about 40 miles north of the state line.
Ulvestad told KCCI-TV in Des Moines that as she passed Osceola she was told to lift up the accelerator and push on the brake.
"And so I did that, and it slammed me from 119 mph to like nothing," she said.
Lyon said Ulvestad had attempted everything the 911 operator - who was in constant contact with the Highway Patrol's headquarters in Jefferson City - told her to do, including trying to shift the vehicle into neutral. The vehicle had a "proximity key," Lyon said, which allows someone to start the car without a real key when they're close enough to it.
"There was some talk about if she threw the key fob out the window, would the car shut off," Lyon said.
Irvine, Calif.-based Kia Motors America Inc. issued a statement Friday afternoon saying it has inspected Ulvestad's vehicle but hasn't been able to identify the problem that caused her accelerator to stick.
"Our technicians have been unable to duplicate the issue and this appears to be an isolated incident. KMA will continue to investigate and analyze the facts of this situation and will work with the customer to resolve the matter in a timely manner," the company said.
Kia said it has provided Ulvestad with alternative transportation and is working with her to resolve the issue.
While he praised Ulvestad's driving and the efforts of the troopers, Lyon said he was disappointed in the drivers who stayed in the left lane of the interstate and didn't immediately move over when the patrol cars came up behind them.
"Every close call was caused by people who wouldn't get out of the way for the lights and sirens," he said. "They ended up with near misses several times."
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