How to Handle a Driving Emergency


You may be a cautious driver, following all the rules and obsessing over defensive driving. None of that changes the fact that you can’t predict a driving emergency.

Anything can happen on the road catching you off-guard. At times you may foresee the situation but be unable to prevent it because you don’t have control over whether it unfolds or not.

In such situations, the only thing you have control over is your response

This post looks into some emergencies that could happen on the road and how to handle them.

1. Engine Malfunction

Sometimes engines peter out suddenly in the middle of the road. There are many reasons your vehicle will shut off out of nowhere, which can be a terrifying emergency depending on the driving conditions.

Nobody wants their engine cutting off on a slope, busy intersection, or high-speed roadway.

If you find yourself in that challenging position where your engine has failed, try your best not to panic or even think about what went wrong. You need to remain focused and in control to safely steer yourself out of the situation.

You should signal and carefully guide your car to the side of the road. Remember, the braking system is intact, so you should use it lightly as you pull over.

Try not to stomp on the brake unless necessary, as that is risky depending on the circumstances of the road. You could lose control of the vehicle if the road is wet or get hit from behind if another car was following too close.

2. Oncoming Vehicle

When an oncoming vehicle veers into your lane, and it seems like the driver is struggling to retain control, you’re indeed in an emergency and one where you don’t have much time to think.

Basically, the only viable option is to try avoiding the driver as there isn’t anything you can do about what’s happening to them. Quickly estimate the vehicle’s trajectory and steer in the opposite direction.

When avoiding an oncoming vehicle, scan your surroundings for a safe getaway to avoid causing an accident yourself.  If you veer the car offroad, watch out for pedestrians. 

You may be trying to escape a collision, but if you crash into other road users in the process, you may be held responsible.

3. Blocked Road

A road blockade can happen when you least expect it. You won’t always be able to see things from a mile away. For instance, you’re rounding a bend, and suddenly, a moose is ambling across the road.

Such animal blockades aren’t just TV tropes. They are a cause of millions of crashes every year.

Many people will instinctively swerve out of the way, trying to avoid hitting an animal. Doing that could cause the vehicle to lose control and roll. 

The safest solution is slamming on the brake. Brake hard, and don’t take your foot off the pedal until the vehicle stops. Stepping on the brake all the way should cause your car to stop in a short time.

4. Brake Failure

There are various reasons why the braking system may fail, such as overheating, damage to rotor disks, or hydraulic fluid leaks.

Brake failure is a serious hazard, and if you don’t act fast and smart, the outcome could be disastrous.

When your brake fails, turn on your hazard lights and headlights even during the day. This way, you alert other road users to the problem so they can get out of the way.

Maintaining your direction while gently steering to the side of the road is important. Apply the emergency brake gently to help slow down the car. You don’t want to yank on the lever as that presents other dangers like spinning.

5. Blown Tire

Blown tires are common, which is why it’s crucial to check your tires often to see if they are compromised. Signs of wear, cuts, and bulging tend to increase the chance of a blowout.

As common as they are, when a tire blows out, it poses a great risk as the vehicle begins to pull from side to side. But the higher the speed, the more dangerous the blown tire is.

In the event of a blown tire, you’d need to tighten your grip to maintain control and gently slow down. Avoid rush moves and ease the vehicle to the side of the road.

Final Thoughts

Emergencies on the road happen, sometimes due to natural causes like a mudslide. An emergency may also occur because you’re sharing the road with unsafe drivers — and if you pay attention, you’ll realize that not everyone drives well.

Train yourself to understand, anticipate, and handle common driving emergencies as that knowledge could save your life.

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