Frank Lecerf, from his home in Pont-de-Metz, near the French city of Amiens, was making his weekly trip to the grocery store in his Renault Laguna. He was going 60 miles an hour when the car's speed dial jammed. Lecerf tried to brake. Instead of slowing, though, the car sped up -- with each tap on the brake leading to more acceleration. Eventually, the car reached a speed of 125 mph -- and then remained stuck there. For an hour.
I have more questions than answers. There were incidents a few years ago regarding a model of Toyota that suddenly accelerated causing some accidents where the acceleration caught out the driver. That was traced to an actual manufacturers fault costing the company a lot of money. There was also a story in the USA of something similar to this happening but I never heard the end result of it.
In this case, the car accelerating when the brake was 'tapped'? Question - what happened when the driver put all his force on the brake? Didn't the brakes work at all? And why was he 'tapping' it? I'd be stamping down bloody hard on it with all my considerable force. The brake system is not connected to the throttle at all - hence the circumstances "do not compute" (unless there is some form of computer control over brakes?).
What the hell is the meaning of "the car's speed dial jammed". What is that if not the speedometer? And if it was jammed, so what? It has no bearing at all on the car not slowing down, it is a 'meter' that's all, it shows the speed and has nothing to do with the throttle. Next - handbrake has no effect then either? - Yes it bloody should. Taking it out of gear and let the engine rev its bollocks off until it blows up? That didn't seem to happen either then. Switching the bloody engine off in the first place by the simple application of 'turning the key'? - Nope? That didn't work either?
Next - have you ever driven at 125mph (200km/hr)? I have, often. And to keep it up for an hour? On a public road? Nope, don't believe it - and to go through narrow toll booths? How did the man know which one to use before he got there?
I am somewhat cynical in the face of the evidence so far. I'd love to know more detail. I'm not saying it's impossible, what I am saying is that it'd have to be an accumulation of highly unlikely factors leading to a form of 'perfect storm' situation.
The trapped accelerator seems to be a recurrent problem from time to time. I was thinking that Lagunas didn't even have dials, just digital readouts, but a quick check through Google images proved me wrong.
I always wonder what would happen if you just turned the key to stop the engine. (I would probably be in too much of a panic to think of that, but whenever I read articles about pedals out of control, it is the first thing that comes to my mind, even in those movies where the car is careening down the mountain road because its brake cables have been cut. Surely the car will slow down if the motor is not running anymore, no?)
And another thing - didn't they come across any of those Mercedes driving idiots that hog the 'fast' lane refusing to move out the way that are so prevalent of European motorways? And they waited for it to run out of fuel followed by a hoard of police cars? They must have thought it was too dangerous to get one in front of it and gradually match its speed and then slow it down as they kissed the front and rear - the police are professional drivers, that's what I would have done if the circumstances warranted it - and blasting long distance with toll booths and traffic does seem to warrant it. Yep, the driver wasn't a professional but all he had to do was steer in a straight line, he could do that couldn't he?
Plus - putting in the clutch? That'd disconnect the engine from the driving wheels. No? Not got one because it's an automatic? Couldn't pull it out of gear? When the car was going down even a small slope and the load was off the gearbox then you can, even on an automatic (and I've driven and made clutchless changes on a manual gearbox car and trucks when the clutch has failed many times), besides the fact that the gearbox wouldn't be suffering from the fault that causes then engine to continue running and besides the fact that the brakes shouldn't be suffering from the fault either?
K2, turn the engine off and as long as it is in gear it will slow down. But slow down depending on a manual or auto box - but think if going down a steepish hill and how cars will run away from you if in a high gear. You'd need to keep changing down the box to keep slowing down at a reasonable rate. In an auto car then it's more difficult unless the box changes down itself or you move the lever.
"speed dial" ~~ maybe the original article was translated from another language?
Anyway, I googled the story & it appears his vehicle was a "specially handicapped-enabled Renault Laguna". source Maybe the adaptation has something to do with braking resulting in acceleration.
As for the lack of related accidents, I gather from the original story that police, emergency workers, toll booths, etc. all coordinated ahead of the car to keep cars & people out of the way. Maybe he was already out of gas & decelerating when he rolled into Alveringem?
Yes, the car had been modified by a third party for handicapped drivers so there is probably no fault attributable to Renault. I'm struggling to imagine how a car couldn't be put in neutral or the ignition turned off to rectify the situation. Brakes cannot stop a car against full throttle--they will just overheat, boil out the brake fluid and become useless.
The fault surely rests either with the driver or whomever modified the car.
Remember if this ever happens to you, simply put the transmission in neutral, allow the car to coast to a stop safely off the road and then turn off the ignition. In that order only because power assisted steering and brakes rely on the car being "on". If the car has neither you can simply turn the ignition off and coast safely to a stop.
Maybe he was already out of gas & decelerating when he rolled into Alveringem?
I still can't think that. Run out of fuel and you'll stop, especially if it's in gear, within a hundred metres or two. You can't go far enough to run all the way down a motorway slip road and in to town.
Brakes cannot stop a car against full throttle--they will just overheat, boil out the brake fluid and become useless.
I beg to differ, through practical experience, and especially with the performance of modern braking systems.
My French is poor but from a couple of french papers:
The vehicle doesn't end in a ditch (this outcome is specifically mentioned as NOT happening) The fault disappears near La Panne (Belgium). He stops on the hard shoulder.
The vehicle was adapted for hand controls only. In Le Figaro, it only says he tried to stop (doesn't actually say brake)
The Laguna may have had a keyless ignition. I am not sure just how "fly by wire" that would make it but it would be daft if the start/stop button doesn't operate a starter solenoid and a ignition circuit relay directly, perhaps they are that daft.
The ability to be able to lock all four wheels or to force ABS to kick in is a pretty minimal requirement. Braking forces are far higher than anything the engine can put out. Having a hand operated brake (if functional) should have been as easy or easier than a foot brake. Applying the brakes with the cruise control still engaged might be a bit disconcerting if the throttle opens to compensate (thinks you are going up hill).
Maybe he couldn't cut the engine, phoned for help, and no one was prepared to offer any course of action other than "wait and see".
Having a throtle stick full open is not a novel situation. Normally (if that is appropriate usage) one cuts the ignition but leaves the vehicle in gear. Provided the engine is turning the servo-pumps are operating. Taking it our of gear is an option if one can rely on the limiter to prevent the engine seizing. Taking the key (or equivalent) out is best avoided (steering lock).
Some people find amusement in this sort of situation. This week they released a comedy in France about a car being blocked at 130 km/h. For some reason, the French motorway authorities refused to rent any portion of their network for the movie, so they finally ended up filming it in Macedonia, which needed the money. I have read articles saying the normal Macedonians who need to use the road for less futile purposes were not amused.
i don't drive, so no idea about cars ... so was wondering - if you are driving past a field or something similar (and there is no ditch separating the road from the field) - would leaving the road and driving onto the field where teh ground might be softer and there are plants help slow down the car?