Driving Emergencies

Safe Driving

How To Handle Driving Emergencies

Emergency Driving

Being ready when the unthinkable happens while driving a motor vehicle can prevent devastating accidents and save lives.  This article discusses some driving emergencies or "What If" situations.

What would you do if your brakes failed?


Not panicking and taking control of your vehicle can help bring you to safety.  Without delay, if there is any resistance, pump the regular brake pedal hard and fast because you may be able to build up enough pressure for one more stop.  If pumping the brakes don't bring you to stop this means your brakes have totally failed.  Try to downshift or put the vehicle into a lower gear.  If driving a stick-shift shifting into a lower forward gear allows engine compression to help slow your vehicle.  Downshifting can also be done with an automatic transmission.  Check the owner's manual to learn how to downshift the transmission in your car.

If pumping the brakes or shifting into low gear does not work, you can try the parking brake but keep in mind when using the parking brake only the back wheels will be affected.  The mechanism that controls the parking brake is different from the system that controlled the regular brakes, so if one fails, the other should still work.

Operating the parking brake incorrectly can cause the rear wheels to lock up and slide and when that happens "fishtailing" effect happens.  Fishtailing means the vehicle starts to spin around.  You can prevent this by activating the parking brake release in advance by reaching for the release, hold it out and then push down on the parking brake pedal.  If you sense the rear wheels are sliding, quickly lift your foot off the pedal.

If your vehicle has a handle-type brake located between the seats, push in on the release button, hold in on the button, and then pull up the lever.  If the rear wheels slide, you quickly release the pressure off the brake lever.

What would you do if your tires blow?

Pedal Emergency BrakeDownshift To Help Stop A Vehicle Tire Blowout

Many people hit the brakes when emergencies happen but applying pressure on the brakes after a tire blows will cause an even greater imbalance on the vehicle's stability.  If a front tire blows, the car tends to go in the direction of the blowout.  To keep your car in the lane safely you must turn the wheel to the opposite side.  If a rear tire blows, the back-end wobbles back and forth.  In this situation, hold the wheel firmly, stay OFF the brake and let the vehicle slow down gradually.

What would you do if your windshield wipers failed?

Failed Windshield Wiper

If your wipers fail in heavy rain or snow, slow down, roll down the window, and put your head outside so that you can see. Then, if possible, move your car off the road to the right, and stop as soon as possible.

What would you do if your gas pedal sticks?

Stuck Gas Pedal

Try to unstick or release the gas pedal by quickly pressing your foot hard against the pedal and release.

•  Shift your car to neutral gear.
•  Apply the brakes.
•  Pull off the road to the right and stop.

What would you do if your headlight failed?

Failed Headlights

Pull off the road the first chance you get.  Try your parking lights, turn signals or 4-way flashers will sometimes still work and can be used to guide you safely to the side of the road.

What would you do if your steering failed?

Failed Steering Wheel

•  Ease up on the gas pedal if your suddenly lose control of your steering.
•  If your car continues to hold the lane, slow down and then gently apply the brakes.  Use
    your four-way flashes (or hazard lights) to wren other drivers.
•  If your vehicle heads off the road, or toward another vehicle or a pedestrian, apply the
   brakes quickly, using maximum pressure.

What would you do if your vehicle catches fire?

Vehicle On Fire

Smoke coming from under the hood of course means danger but the smoke can block your view.  Slow down, pull off the road and turn the ignition off immediately.  Use extreme caution when opening the engine hood and if you do not have a fire extinguisher, you can smother a fire by using dirt or sand.  DO NOT USE WATER because burning gasoline will float on water and spread the fire.  If you have no way of stopping the fire and the fire gets out of control, move well away from the vehicle and call for help.  If the fire happens to reach the gas tank, you do not want to be anywhere near the vehicle.

What would you do if there is an oncoming vehicle in your lane?

Head On Colission

Drivers driving the wrong way on a roadway happens more often than you might think.  You want to slow down, sound your horn, flash your headlights and pull as far to the right as you safely can.  Do not turn into the lane that the approaching vehicle has left because the other driver may, at some point, realize their mistake and turn back into the proper lane.  Be ready and alert to prevent a head on collision.

What would you do if your car became disabled on the highway?

Disabled Vehicle On A Highway

Most of the time a vehicle has enough momentum left to drift onto the shoulder of the highway.
If your vehicle becomes disabled while driving on the travel portion of the highway, the first effort should be made to get this vehicle off and onto the shoulder.  If it is impossible to steer your vehicle to the shoulder of the highway, all persons should be evacuated from the vehicle and directed to the shoulder of the highway in a safe place.  Get on the protected side of the guard-rail if there is one and the driver be placed in a position to warn other drivers of this obstacle on the roadway.  Try to warn other drivers well enough in advance to avoid the hazard.  Place reflectors or flares 200' and 300' behind the car.  Never leave a vehicle abandoned on a highway were motorists are traveling.

•  If possible, get all four wheels off the roadway.
•  Use parking lights, flashers or flares to warn other drivers.
•  Have the vehicle towed as soon as possible.

NEVER PROTECT YOUR VEHICLE BY STANDING DIRECTLY BEHIND IT.  Many people have been killed by doing this.

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