3 Driving Emergencies & How to Arrive Alive
You’ve probably seen YouTube clips of dashcam videos where drivers barely escape flying tires and other objects on the road. And you’ve certainly seen movies with car chases, where the lead character is not only fleeing from cops or bad guys, but dealing with some mechanical issue at the same time. But what would you do if you faced a driving emergency in reality? Would you react calmly? Would you panic? It’s hard to say how you’ll respond until it happens to you, but you can prepare yourself for driving emergencies by following some time-tested (and proven) safe driving tips.
3 Driving Scares & Their Solutions
Driving is a joy, a privilege and a necessity for many. And in most cases, it makes our lives easier and enjoyable. However, there are times when it gets frustrating, hectic and downright dangerous. We’re not talking solely about reckless drivers or bad weather here (although they can make driving a pain), but rather, sudden occurrences within your own vehicle that seem unpreventable. Many of these incidents lead to widespread recalls from auto manufacturers.
If you’ve never heard the sound of a shotgun blast in reality, a tire blowout might provide that experience before your first hunting trip. The usual cause of a blowout is an overloading of the car, impact damage, rapid air loss due to a major cut or a gradual, unnoticeable loss of air that eventually leads to tire failure. Unfortunately, most drivers respond by slowing down and trying to steer themselves off the road – a fast and effective way of getting into a crash.
How to respond
If you experience a tire blowout, you need to resist your inclination to brake and head for the shoulder lanes. Rather, you need to press the gas pedal for a few seconds and keep driving straight. This will reduce the possibility of losing control. Naturally, the car will slow down due to the drag of the tire. Once you reach about 30 mph/48 km/h, you can gently turn towards the shoulder. After calling and waiting for the tow truck, remember to always check your tire pressure and surfaces from now on, to prevent a future blowout.
Few driving experiences are as terrifying as sudden unintended acceleration (SUA). Just as its name suggests, it’s an event where the car speeds up without the driver trying to do so. It may seem like a curse, but there are explicable reasons for SUA to take place. Misuse of the gas pedal (driver unaware of pressing on the pedal so hard) is very common and fortunately, the easiest one to fix – you lighten your foot. However, more serious and deadly causes come from mechanical or electrical defects. These glitches will most likely lead to a recall. There’s also stuck throttle phenomenon, where the pedal itself actually freezes in its position.
How to respond
You’ll need to think and act quickly here. First of all, gauge how hard you’re pressing the gas pedal. If you are too tense, hit the brake (but don’t panic brake) and slow down to a safe speed. However, if your pedal is actually stuck and the brake doesn’t work, shift gears to neutral. Your vehicle should slow down at this point. If that still doesn’t work, you’ll have to switch the ignition off. As you decrease in speed, try to steer your vehicle onto an emergency lane only if it is safe to do so. A sudden acceleration that you didn’t cause should prompt you to immediately report the issue to your manufacturer. Obviously, the cause of such an accident is very serious.
At the opposite end of the uncontrollable speed factor, is brake failure. This scenario is just as scary. The 2009 – 2011 Toyota recall was heavily centered around this problem, a tragic case of a product defect that led to 34 deaths. Brake failures usually occur due to an interference of friction (greasy surface, worn out pads), overheating of pads, manufacturer defects or anti-lock brakes (ABS) failure. Brake failure is quite obvious once it occurs – a driver attempts to slow down, but can’t bring the car to halt. It’s a situation that will make even the best drivers panic, but you can bring yourself to a full stop without hurting yourself or anyone else.
How to respond
Although frightening, you can escape the hazards of a brake failure. First of all, briefly glance under your brakes to see if there`s an obstruction (ie. pop can, bottle). If it’s clear, the next step is to downshift. It’s important to do so gradually if you’re travelling at high speeds. For example, you will slowly shift down from D to 3, 2 and 1. Also remember to press hard on the brake. The majority of cars today have anti-lock brakes, so it`s not necessary to pump them like you would have to in previous years.
Your next action should be to engage your parking brake while firmly holding the release button. If that still doesn’t work, you’ll have to try your best to steer your car onto terrain that will naturally slow your vehicle down, and if you must hit something, aim for a soft object (such as a fence). Alert others with your horn and four-way flashers. Doing so will give other drivers a cue to give you space. Once stopped, DON`T drive away. Wait for help since it’s clear that your car is not operating normally.
Driving emergencies are by no means exciting (at least in non-fiction settings!) or events worth looking forward to. And if the statistics are on your side, you’ll probably never have to face a harrowing situation. However, if you do, you can have confidence that the safe driving tips listed above, if applied, can save you, your passengers and your car from bumps, bruises and bends. You can’t prevent all of the twists and turns your drive may deliver, but you can decrease the likelihood of them happening. Taking good care of your vehicle is an important aspect to staying safe on the road. By keeping these things in mind, getting from point A to B shouldn’t feel like an action flick!
Good luck and safe drive.