This Guy's Car Got Stuck at 125mph—for an Hour

A real-world screening of Speed ended with a small miracle of bureaucratic coordination.

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Shutterstock/Snvv

It started with a trip to a supermarket. It ended with a high-speed chase, a frantic call to police, a highway-bound ballet, a border crossing, a ditch, and a guy who is very, very lucky to be alive.

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.

Lecerf, frantic, called the police from his car -- and they sent an escort that The Guardian describes as "a platoon of police cars" to help him navigate a busy highway. (Lecerf stayed, appropriately, in the fast lane.) What resulted was a small miracle of technological coordination: Responding to emergency services' advance warnings, three different toll booths raised their barriers as Lecerf approached. A police convoy ensured that roads were kept clear for the speeding car. Fellow drivers, obligingly, got out of the way. Emergency services patched Lecerf through to a Renault engineer who tried -- though failed -- to help Lecerf get the speeding car to slow down.

"My life flashed before me," Lecerf later told Le Courrier Picard. "I just wanted it to stop."

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Lecerf's general route was unexpectedly international, starting in France and ending in Belgium. (Google Maps)

Finally, it did. The goal everyone had been working for, coordinating for -- the speeding car running out of gas before its Newtonian nightmare ended in violence -- was achieved. Lecerf's car, finally out of fuel, came to rest in a ditch. He had driven from northern France and along the French coast up through Calais and Dunkirk, eventually crossing the border into Belgium. The little Renault had stopped, finally, in the town of Alveringem. 

Before it did, though, Lecerf was stuck in his speeding car for an hour. (It's unclear what, exactly, went wrong with the machine -- though Lecerf's upcoming lawsuit against Renault should help to figure that out.) The man and his vehicle and his communal, ad hoc escort ended up traveling more than 100 miles together before they got their Hollywood ending -- an ending made possible not by individual heroics, but by collective effort.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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