French Driver Forced to Do 125 m.p.h. for Nearly an Hour

Maybe you've had this nightmare: You're racing down the highway at crazy speeds, the brakes unresponsive, the car inexplicably speeding up, toll stops and who-knows-what-else lying in wait ahead.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

Maybe you’ve had this nightmare: You’re racing down the highway at crazy speeds, the brakes unresponsive, the car inexplicably speeding up, toll stops and who-knows-what-else lying in wait ahead — it actually happened to a French driver out for a casual drive.

Frank Lecerf was on his way to the supermarket, reports The Guardian, but when his Renault Laguna’s speed passed 60 m.p.h., something went badly wrong. Suddenly the car wouldn’t slow down, and hitting the brakes only made it go faster, quickly reaching a top speed of 125 m.p.h., where it remained for the better part of an hour.

(WATCH: Helicopter Crashes While Racing Corvette on Top Gear Korea)

Hurtling down France’s northern motorway, swerving around other vehicles in the fast lane, the 36-year-old managed to contact emergency services who responded by deploying what The Guardian referred to as “a platoon of police cars.” The police immediately worked to clear a forward path for Lecerf, directing traffic out of the way and prompting three toll stations to raise their barricades to allow the malfunctioning Renault to zip through. At one point an engineer with Renault attempted to help Lecerf slow the vehicle, but to no avail.

Lecerf’s white-knuckle trip, which started in Pont-de-Metz near Amiens, eventually took him north past Calais, then Dunkirk and finally over the border intoBelgium before the car ran out of gas. At that point, Lecerf was reportedly able to veer into a ditch near the Belgian city of Alveringem — about 125 miles from his starting point.

Interviewed by Le Courrier Picard afterward, Lecerf said he saw his life flash before his eyes, and that he “just wanted [the ordeal] to stop.”

He’s filed a lawsuit against Renault, claiming this wasn’t the first time the car exhibited speed issues and that he suffered multiple seizures after the experience. Renault isn’t commenting, other than telling a French news station it’s waiting for results from an investigation into the matter.

MORE: Google Doodle Mashup Spins Together George Ferris and Valentine’s Day

12 comments
awang429
awang429

J.M. Midnite, you did an online search but what did you reveal?  Where in your post did you show that this car could not be put into neutral.  The question remains:  What kin of car cannot be put into neutral?  It sounds as though you are pretty happy with yourself for finding something online but, how did you figure out that the car in question was the same make and model as the one you found via internet search?

J.M.Midnite
J.M.Midnite

@awang429 I am never "Happy" to see  people not do their homework. The Gentleman was driving a Renault Laguna 3 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_LagunaAutomatic), he also had his modified for Disabilities (I had read more than one version of the article from Huff Post, some UK dailies, etc), which normally means it would be an automatic model and thus not having the same controls as a Manual (Common sense and gearhead friends). The Electronic Control Unit and Transmission Control Modules are based on similar used in Nissans and I think are actually manufactured by the same 3rd party company (Jatco). Here's some wiring specs that show the Automatic Tranmission Control Unit (Diagram 5, part number 46 (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=renault%20laguna%20autorans%20control%20unit&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CEUQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.elektroda.pl%2Frtvforum%2Fdownload.php%3Fid%3D387173&ei=7b4iUdriDsPW0gHd3IHYDg&usg=AFQjCNEGk3jaAOzUsnWfwzHw3MkM__CF_w&bvm=bv.42553238,d.dmQ)

Most people don't realize that controls such ass these have been changing to purely Electonic mainly to optimize efficiency: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_control_unit

Also, from a PR standpoint, most companies know people are a bit squeamish to know there are little to no true manual controls in many newer and high end cars, so do not promote it in Advertising Materials, you can however look through Haynes manuals and other tech resources. I am not listing every link here. You can do some of the work yourself, it will be educational, also you seem to me to be "Happy" you potentially corrected  me instead of looking yourself to Prove me wrong. Again, why those searches, phone calls and the like are helpful. In the end, it may be he's after something (Money, infamy, etc), but the basis is sound, though NO car company in it's right mind would say otherwise unless they wanted to be litigated to death, hence why most players weigh the costs of potential lawsuits, damage and insurance claims and the only if it will cost them more in Lawsuits vs. recall, will they think to actually fix the problem thjat may or may not in the long run affect more than a small margin of drivers.

awang429
awang429

J.M. Midnite.  What. Have. You. Proven?  You looked some wiring diagram and although the Laguna 3 has been around for several years, you are assming that you have found the "documents" matching this guys car.  The question remains: How have you determined that this car could not be shifted into neutral?  It is a simple question.

J.M.Midnite
J.M.Midnite

@awang429  Apparently I've "Proven" you can't read a wiring Diagram among a few other things... The use of periods does not ameliorate this problem, the simpler question would be "Why don't you prove otherwise?" I've spoken to my gearhead friends and mechanic, learned about Manumatics (http://everything2.com/title/Semiautomatic+transmission), of interest is the line: "Manumatic drivers aren't really choosing gears; rather they're ordering the automatictranny's "brain" to interrupt its preprogrammed cycle and do the master's bidding." Also Renaults newer Laguna III's from 2007 on up use these Manumatic style controls, the computer will not LET the driver make what it assumes are stupid decisions based on speed and output. 

I've politely provided some basic searches to answer your earlier questions (You stated I didn't know what he drove, I did, you seemed unaware of the use of further electronics in auto shifting, I provided you with that) and I even stated that the man may even be just trying to pull a fast one and it may even not be the case. It is entirely possible that he could not have shifted to neutral, or if he was lying, he might have, regardless the use of modern electronics (Especially in luixury and Eurpean cars such as Renault has resulted in many passenger compartments that have fewer actual physical mechanical connections to the engine. This is a Fact, if you are to lazy to talk and search yourself I can not prove otherwise to you, until the Investigation is done none of us, including myself can say exactly what happened.

Odds are this is an attempt to be difficult, I get paid to do what I do and have a bit more faith in the work and have spent all the time I. Will .Today. You ask what I've proven? That people like you would rather discredit others than do the legwork, and I have proven that Repeatedly. Quibble over Quality, Congratulations. Now pick up a book, type some searches and call some people. Maybe You will learn something, I did today ;)

And outside of this, after reading about the types of mods he had made that placed the Gas and brakes for hand control, it appears the car was an Electronic Nightmare waiting to happen that may have confused the Hell out of the onboard systems. The mods will probably keep Renault from Liability if they were done by a 3rd Party. The article was on USA Today, you can look up those links, I've done enough work for you today. Have at it...

JamesCaruso
JamesCaruso like.author.displayName 1 Like

too stupid to put in neutral or turn off key.. lots of people on the road that should not be...

pamela.reads
pamela.reads

@JamesCaruso Seriously - you think that the engineer from Renault couldn't think of that either - but you, in your infinite wisdom could have solved this?

TimRobinson
TimRobinson

@pamela.reads @JamesCaruso @J.M.Midnite & @awang

JM thank you for info

Pam, James and WANG - get over your half brains, someone gives you referenced linked info

J.M.Midnite
J.M.Midnite like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JamesCaruso: Well, in older cars that would be the "key," in many new cars, brakes, accelerator, shifting (In automatics) and even ignition is handled through an on board processor and even what feels to be manual is really just a gimmicked control that is hooked to an interface. Do you REALLY think that the Police, Emergency Servoces AND an Engineer at Renault didn't think of that...? Really..?

J.M.Midnite
J.M.Midnite like.author.displayName 1 Like

@JamesCarusoFrom Renault's site (Note ELECTRONIC CONTROL UNIT and ELECTRIC ACTUATOR):

Renault's new EDC is an automatic transmission. There is no need for a clutch pedal, while gearshift control is of the 'P-R-N-D' type, plus an 'up/down' shift mode. Gearshifts are automatic and comfortable, and the ideal gear is selected by an electronic control unit.

The gears are carried by four shafts: two concentric primary shafts (each of which is connected to a clutch) and two secondary shafts. Gears are matched by means of synchronizers, as is the case with a manual gearbox. These synchronizers, like the clutches, are operated by electric actuators which are in turn controlled by a control unit.

~~~See I find this stuff out by asking and very simple web searches, I was a Producer for a few years and had to be able to find stuff quickly for my hosts to use. Fun part is, all I ever did was use a computer and occasionally a follow up phone car, BUT it stopped me from making comments on the stupidity of others, that in the process pointed out how much of one I was. Want to look up ignition systems or do we want to just assume you got that wrong too..? This happened in the states with Toyota, so we already got a heads up that most "Manual" controls are becoming a thing of the past.

J.M.Midnite
J.M.Midnite

@Jay_in_Austin @J.M.Midnite @JamesCaruso  A man nearly died over a mechanical fault and people thought it was more fun to call him stupid and make fun of him, which in My world is the definition of a Jerk. Someone else thought it was more important to try and correct me than focus on, Again, the fact a man almost died and people were making fun of him . Definitely back into the Jerk category. Then you pop up way after the fact and once more take the attention away from the fact there is potentially a fault that can kill a person or even a family unawares... I think you had a word for that. If you side with that then your opinion is pretty inconsequential to me. 

Jay_in_Austin
Jay_in_Austin

@J.M.Midnite @JamesCaruso Thanks for letting us know how dumb we are and what a genius you are.  We never would have known.  Now please go home.  Nobody wants to play with a jerk.