It can be overwhelming for a lot of new drivers. Generally speaking, they're young, and the freedom that comes with a car is unlike any prior experiences. For the first time in their lives, they have the ability to go anywhere, at a moment's notice, without reliance on anything else or anyone's agenda.
Of course, everyone is aware of the danger associated with this as well. Crash and accident statistics are notoriously high among teenagers and young adults, to the point where it makes insurance costs insanely expensive. Part of the reason for all of these accidents is one of distractions- being unable to concentrate on the road, the changing of the radio station, the person in the passenger seat--all at once. However, another reason that contributes to many of these crashes is simply a lack of knowledge of what to do in a situation.
These are not so much tips on what to do when your car has a problem, but instead are to help out in tricky conditions that you might not encounter every day, or in driver's education class.
Skidding in Rain or Snow
Although not everyone will have to deal with harsh winters, all drivers will inevitably have to drive when the road is wet. And, being a new driver, it is easy to get overconfident and fail to account for road conditions and slowing down.
If this happens, your car will start to enter a skid and slide across the road. In the rain you may have heard this referred to as hydroplaning in driver's ed. Chances are, at some point in your life, this will happen to you.
The first thing to remember is to stay calm. Next, do not make any sudden or jerky movements. You may have seen video clips of professional racing drivers sliding around on loose surfaces and drifting the car's back end around, jerking the steering wheel back and forth. Do not attempt this. You're not a professional, and you will wrap yourself around a tree.
Instead, make all of your movements gentle and slow. Get off the gas. Depending on your speed, it might be best to not even touch the brakes. You are asking a lot of your car to brake and turn at the same time. It is best to focus on turning. Give the car light steering input, and always stay pointed in the direction you want to go. You drive where your eyes wander, so keep them planted down the road in the correct direction, don't stare into the ditch across the street.
If this happens frequently, invest in a good set of all season or winter tires.
The Car Shutting Off
Many people have a huge fear of the car randomly shutting off for some reason. Maybe they are out of gas and didn't know it. Perhaps the car has some electrical short. Regardless, it can be pretty scary to be cruising at 65 miles per hour on the highway and then suddenly hear silence rather than engine noise.
At this point, stay calm (you may start noticing a trend here...) Remember that you still have control over braking and steering, it's just that these will no longer be assisted by the car. That means it will be more difficult to push the brake pedal, and will require more strength to turn the steering wheel. However, they still function, and are meant to resort to still function mechanically.
The most important thing to keep in mind if this happens, especially on a highway, is to get off the road as far as possible. Obviously you want to make sure you slow down and don't hit anything, but avoid slamming to a stop in the middle of your lane. At this point you have a risk of being rear-ended while a stationary target from someone doing freeway speeds, which in all likelihood is even more dangerous.
Put your emergency flashers on if they are still functioning. As for restarting the car, most experts recommend trying this after you have coasted to a stop on the side of the road. When your car shuts off, the key is still in the running position. To restart the car, you have to turn the key off. In that time the key is in the off position, your steering wheel will lock up and you will be unable to turn. Should you drop the key, or have it jam in the column, you would then be in a vehicle that won't start without steering input. Try restarting only after you are safely off the road.
If you have never experienced a tire blowout before, it can be quite a terrifying experience. The sound of it suddenly occurring is like a shotgun blast. It's very loud, and very violent. Watch some YouTube videos to get an idea of what it is like. Not a fun thing to have happen.
Staying calm now should come as expected advice. However, it is also important to note here that tire blowouts can easily be prevented. Buy a $2 tire pressure gauge and check your tires out every time you fill it up with gas. You're already going to be standing around at the pump waiting for a few minutes, so you may as well make it useful time and ensure you're not getting into a death trap.
If you do end up in the situation, the single most important thing to remember is to avoid panicking and following your natural instinct- to slam on the brakes. No sudden movements or pedal slamming. Do what your brain is screaming not to, and gently squeeze the gas pedal (yes, you read that correctly) for a few seconds, then release it and continue to coast until you are going slow enough to pull onto the shoulder.
Braking right after a tire blowout will most likely send you into a spin, especially if one of the rear tires blows out. By pressing the gas, you will not accelerate (the blown tire has so much drag it is impossible for you to pick up speed) but you will put down enough power to re-establish traction and keep you in your lane. This is desirable. Above all else, do what has been suggested with every one of these situations and stay calm. Most drivers are able to think perfectly rationally after the fact. What makes a great, and safe, driver is the ability to remember tips like these in the midst of an emergency.