What to Do in 4 Unusual — and Dangerous — Driving Situations

Posted by Safeco May 28, 2015

Driving Hazards and How to Respond

Driving Hazards

It’s the season for Americans to hit the road, heading out on all sorts of family trips to amusement parks, campgrounds, national parks or even just to grandma and grandpa’s place.

Whatever you’re on the road for, however, unexpected situations can put both your trip and your safety at risk. Here are some unusual, but not completely uncommon, things you might face behind the wheel — and how to respond to them.

Blowing a Tire

According to the National Safety Commission, a blown tire will make your car veer toward the side of the bad tire. Here’s what the organization recommends you do:

  • Don’t slam on the brakes. In fact, don’t hit them at all, because not having a tire on one side can impact the braking and potentially make your car veer more.
  • Do focus on your steering. Don’t overcorrect, and remain calm. “Look at where you need the car to go and steer toward that point,” the NSC says.
  • Slow down gradually. This shouldn’t be a problem. The blown tire will help your car slow down on its own.

A Stuck Accelerator

When you can’t get your car to stop accelerating, it’s easy to panic. Here are a few options that may help you regain control:

  • Try the brakes. Even if the accelerator is stuck, your brakes still could be strong enough to stop the car. (And be sure that you’re hitting the brake — not the gas.)
  • Shift into neutral. This is likely your best option. The engine won’t be powering the wheels any more, and you’ll have full braking ability, along with power steering, to get the car under control.
  • What about turning it off? This will certainly slow the car down, but note that it also will make it harder to maneuver.

Wildlife in the Road

Hitting a deer – or even hitting a moose – is sure to detour your road trip. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are as many as 2 million collisions each year between vehicles and wildlife, causing $1 billion in damage. If you encounter an animal in the road, follow these tips from the Defenders of Wildlife:

  • Try to stay in your lane. Hit your brakes and your horn but try not to swerve. Doing so could cause you to hit an oncoming car or a tree, or drive off the road entirely.
  • Be mindful of when and where you’re driving. Dawn and dusk are active times for many large animals, particularly in the fall. And watch for “wildlife crossing” signs — there’s a reason they are posted.
  • If you see an animal, expect more nearby. Missing one animal doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear.

Debris in the Road

In general, when trying to avoid road debris, the principles are similar to steering clear of wildlife — be alert at all times and don’t swerve wildly unless the danger is severe. But, there are some other things to consider:

  • Pay attention to other vehicles. If you find yourself behind a truck or other vehicle carrying a loose load or something else that looks dangerous, back off, change lanes or, if possible to do so, pass the vehicle.
  • Have a plan. Know what you would do in a worst-case scenario.
  • Consider the debris. If it’s something small, driving over it might be the best option, instead of doing something that could cause you to lose control of the car.

These tips, of course, are no guarantee that you’ll navigate these conditions safely, but they may just help keep a bad situation from getting worse. One other tip that may help when facing unexpected driving hazards? Slow down! You’ll have more time to react to dangerous situations if you’re already driving at or below the speed limit.

Of course, any time you’re driving, you should also be aware of your surroundings and ready for anything. If you do experience a vehicle malfunction or collision, carefully pull to the side of the road, turn off your vehicle and do not drive any farther unless it is safe to do so. Turn on your hazard lights and call roadside assistance. Also, never get out of your car and approach a wild animal you've hit.

While these situations may seem uncommon, taking just a little time to think about how you’d respond to each one — before they happen — can make all the difference in the world.


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