Frank Lecerf’s trip to the supermarket took wild detour Saturday after his car’s brakes failed while he was traveling 60 mph. His attempts to use the brakes caused the car to accelerate to 125 mph and stuck there, for an hour. Lecerf managed to call police; and they decided to escort him until it ran out of gas, which it did 125 miles later, allowing him to swerve into a ditch and come to a halt, in Belgium. (The car’s gas and brake controls were moved to the steering wheel due to Lecerf’s epilepsy)
I fail to understand how some drivers can be so ignorant of their car’s controls to the extent that they can drive for miles at high speed until they crash somewhere. Granted, this car was modified. While it is impossible for a normal car to overcome full application of the brakes, I can’t vouch for this modified vehicle.
Until recently, all cars had keys to work the ignition. It is extremely easy to turn off the ignition without locking the steering wheel. If your car doesn’t have a key, learn the shutdown procedure; usually you just have to push the start button for a specific amount of time. Barring that, all cars have a neutral position on their transmission.l Many European cars still have manual transmissions, making it very easy to take the car out of gear. I assume that this was an automatic because of the previously mentioned modifications. I’m not aware of any automatic transmission that has a neutral lockout while in motion.
If we allow that this driver was a clueless idiot, what of his police escorts? Does no one know how a car works?
The stories come up surprisingly frequently from all over the world. The overwhelming majority of all of them are caused by driver confusion or error. It is amazing how many people call the equivalent of 911 while reporting ‘the harder I push the brakes, the faster it goes’ without realizing the obvious reason for that. I don’t understand how using the brake could cause the vehicle to speed up in any case. Maybe the throttle stuck and the brakes failed because he used them too timidly for too long?
This story is probably due to driver error as well. The only thing that creates any plausibility is that it is a vehicle with modified controls but I still don’t believe it. I have never driven a vehicle that didn’t have multiple ways to stop it. All of them that I know of can be shifted into neutral as a last resort.
I don’t know if modern cars will even let you slam them into Park but if they do and you do it, the locking splines in the transmission that try to stop the transmission from rolling would make a rather horrible grinding sound and possibly snap off. What would NOT happen, though, is the car coming to an abrupt screeching halt while your head sails through the windshield. The Park transmission setting has no capability for actually bringing a moving car to a halt; it’s designed to keep a nonmoving vehicle from rolling.
Notably, the driver was patched through to an actual Renault technician, who was not able to help him stop the car. Presumably “just turn the car off” was not a workable suggestion.
Also, the car was adapted for use by disabled drivers. I don’t know what that involves, but it seems at least plausible that it involves modifying the ignition system in such a way that you can’t simply turn the key off during travel.
My throttle stuck when I was 16. I had no idea what to do. The brakes started to smell but wouldn’t stop the car. I ran a couple lights and stop signs before I ran it into a dirt pile at a construction site. Then I shut off the car and called my parents from a neighboring house. My mom hugged me pretty hard when I got back.
It is impossible for brakes in normal working condition to not stop an automobile even with the accelerator pressed completely to the floor. Even if only two of them worked instead of four.
But I was 16 once and I know what my car was like. I will assume that your hydraulic system was leaking brake fluid all over the brake pads or that there was no friction material left on them. I am glad that you came through unscathed and didn’t injure anyone else in the process.
I think the policemen involved in this French incident were as clueless as those who think that Park is the same as Neutral (and there seem to be several). All normal cars can be turned off while the car is in motion. We’re only giving this guy the benefit of the doubt because some cheeser did a poor job of installing hand controls and we don’t know what he could have done wrong. French automobile engineers are quite whimsical but a Renault technician (does that mean mechanic or some suit that writes the service manuals?) should be talented enough to solve this driver’s dilemma. I have my doubts that his directions were being followed.
I would still like to hear an explanation as to why the car couldn’t be shifted to neutral. Regardless of where the accelerator and brake controls are located or incorrectly installed, that wouldn’t affect the shifter. What’s more plausible to me is panicky people are nothing more than babbling balls of jello. It’s really, really, hard to get a babbling ball of jello to follow instructions.
I will preemptively call bullshit on this. And then I will ask: what kind of car is this?
In any event, slamming it into park won’t do a whole lot at first. There is a parking pawl that will try to engage to lock the transmission, but with the car moving at more than a few MPH, it won’t be able to drop into position; it’ll grind and growl until you slow down to maybe 3 MPH, and then it will drop in, and the car will lurch to a stop.
The alternative is to slam it into neutral. Assuming the accelerator pedal is stuck to the floor somehow (which caused this whole scenario), the engine will go to redline, and the ECU’s rev-limiter will kick in and hold it there. The engine will be screaming, but it won’t destroy itself, as long as you can shut it down in the next minute or so.
If you shudder at these thoughts, I would remind you that both of these options are better than careening into a grove of oak trees at 100+ MPH.