A police inspector had to brake to avoid a head-on collision with a speeding car driver at night in Mansfield, a court was told.
Lee Hodgkinson (24), who had no insurance and only a provisional licence, had taken the keys to his brother’s Citroen Saxo.
He had already collided with a central bollard.
The officer turned his vehicle round and followed the car, which the driver abandoned before running off.
Two passengers emerged, one of them a woman crying and screaming ‘I thought we were going to die,’ Nottingham Crown Court was told.
Hodgkinson, of Brick Kiln Lane, Mansfield, admitted aggravated vehicle taking and driving without a licence or insurance.
His brother Daniel thought he was just messing about when he took the car keys from his pocket at an address in Oxton Close in Mansfield, said Jon Fountain, prosecuting.
‘But 20 minutes later he realised his car had gone.
Just after 1am the officer was driving on the A6075 Abbott Road when the Saxo came round a bend towards him at more than the 40mph limit ‘twitching’ from side to side, the court was told.
It hit a central bollard. ‘The inspector braked to avoid a high-speed head-on collision,’ said Mr Fountain.
Hodgkinson, who was arrested about three hours later, had prior convictions for criminal damage and assault.
In mitigation it was said he panicked when he saw the police car.
Judge Michael Stokes, the Recorder of Nottingham, said he had sympathy with Hodgkinson’s difficulties within his family.
But the judge added: ‘This could have been a real tragedy. If it were not for the inspector’s actions some one could have been killed.’
The sentence was nine months’ prison suspended for a year, 140 hours’ unpaid work and 18 months’ disqualification.