by: Matthew Young
A number of mishaps can occur on the road at any given time. When driving, as little as one second can mean the difference between serious damage or even injury to yourself and another motorist. Learn what it means to react in the space of a second. Know what to do, not just immediately but instinctively. Here are a few safety-minded tips and driving guidelines to help you prepare for the five most common driving emergencies.
1. Running off the Road
This usually happens at the worst possible instant. A large pothole or a degraded section of asphalt can contribute to your car’s veering off the pavement. When this happens, do not try to turn the steering wheel back towards the pavement. Instead:
• Firmly grip the steering wheel and keep it stationary while taking your foot off the gas pedal.
• Push down on the brake pedal gradually and not too swiftly — any attempt to pump them quickly or lock them may send the car into a skid.
• When the car has slowed or stopped, turn the wheel in the direction of the shoulder and put on your signal.
• When there’s a clearing in cross traffic, drive slowly back onto the pavement.
A skid is the loss of contact between the tires and the road. Contrary to popular belief, the rear wheels are what cause the skidding, while the front wheels are unwilling accomplices. To recapture traction, steer in the direction you were already headed, or in the direction the rear wheels are skidding. Here’s a checklist:
• Let up on the gas immediately.
• Steer in the general direction of the skid pattern.
• If the car has ABS — an antilock braking system — don’t pump the brakes. Instead, push the brake pedal firmly to the floor and keep it there. This motion activates the ABS and essentially pumps the brakes for you. When you hear a rhythmic click and sense an opposing force — as if the pedal wants to push its way upward — you’ll know the ABS is active. Both signs are normal.
3. Tire Blowout
A tire blowout happens either of two ways: gradually or instantaneously. The difference in the level of the car will change. You may even hear the tire go out. The main way to avoid blowout — which happens because the integrity of the wall of the tire has been compromised — is to keep the tires properly inflated. Inadequate inflation stresses the wall of the tire. An overinflated tire negotiates a pothole by overcompensating with a big bounce. If a tire blows out or goes flat, do the following:
• Keep control of your car with a firm grip on the wheel.
• Let up on the gas pedal and coast onto the shoulder or a part of the road — don’t forget to signal — free of traffic.
• Brake smoothly because you don’t know how damaged the tire already is.
• Stop once you’ve straightened out — stay parallel with the road.
• Call roadside assistance or if you have the tools and know-how, change the tire. Only change the tire on level ground, not an incline. Make sure the parking brake is set and use wheel stops if you have them — stones work, too.
4. Brake Failure
Brake failure is perhaps one of the scariest things that can happen on the road. Sometimes it means a faulty or broken brake line. Or it could mean you neglected to get your brakes serviced. Either way, remain calm, keep a clear head and follow these steps:
• If your auto has disc brakes, pump them to force fluid through the lines and build up sufficient pressure.
• If you auto has antilock brakes (ABS), push the brake pedal to the floor and firmly keep your foot on it — don’t pump!
• If you don’t begin to slow, try shifting to the next lowest gear.
• Slowly push in the parking brake. If you do it too quickly, you’ll make your tires lock up.
• After you come to a complete stop, activate your emergency flashers and turn your tires in towards the curb or rail. Turn the ignition off last. Call the tow truck.
5. Engine Failure
Sometimes your car’s engine will have difficulty running or simply stop working. If your car stalls or your engine dies while driving, do the following safely and quickly to remove yourself and other drivers from harm’s way:
• If you have enough momentum and the lanes are clear, signal and begin steering towards the shoulder. If visibility is an issue, activate the emergency flashers.
• If momentum is reduced or the car was stationary, set the gear in neutral, activate the flashers and begin pushing the car over. Another driver will almost always jump in to assist.
• If this occurs at night, keep the headlights on.
• Call roadside assistance and wait inside with the doors locked, especially in a remote area.
• If you need to get out to speak to the tow truck driver or a CHP officer, exit via the passenger side in order to avoid oncoming traffic.
Safety Tools for the Road
Since the overall theme of this entry is roadside preparedness, we would be remiss to not mention a couple important tools. A roadside kit should be in every car — one with flares, a small socket battery wrench, bandages, batteries, and so on — but two things must be addressed. If the car door doesn’t open, you need to break the window. If the seatbelt clip won’t unlatch, you need to cut the belt. Any good-sized hammer can perform the latter, but a product like the resqme® does both. About the size of a key remote and just 2.93 inches long, this lightweight escape tool sports a powerful steel spike that breaks glass with minimal effort. The opposite end features a razor edge enclosed with a curve to cut seatbelts. With both the knowledge and the tools to deal with any kind of roadside emergency, driving will be a much safer experience.
Matthew Young is an automotive reporter from Boston. As a freelance journalist with a passion for vehicles Matthew writes about everything on 4 wheels, be it race cars, SUVs, vintage cars, you name it. When he is not at his desk writing he can be usually found helping his dad in the garage. You can reach Matthew @mattbeardyoung.
A Road Trip Down Memory Lane: spending a week in Canada visiting Winnipeg visionary, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, + Resqme Foundation partners
By Laurent Colasse, founder and president of resqme, Inc
On the last days of September as the fall season began, I took a trip to Canada for the first time since 1983. It was an opportune trip that would allow me to see my long-time colleague, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht and later, the Neufeld family, of which resqme has close ties.
An early start on the campaign trail
Our day started promptly at 7:30 a.m. with Dr. Giesbrecht and his lovely wife, Debra, meeting me at my hotel on our way to attend a speech by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.Giesbrecht, an internationally known expert on cold-water survival, submerge vehicle protocols and safety, is campaigning for a seat in the Canadian congress. Giesbrecht’s research has been instrumental to the lifesaving message resqme products promote, and his work offers these 4 points of public advice for occupants of a sinking car:
So, with safety always in mind, we hit the road to attend the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party’s event inside the Bison Transport company warehouse. After a successful and warm speech, the Prime Minister shook hands with those in the crowd and I’m thankful to say I was one of them. I said one word to him in French: “felicitation,” which means congratulations. I later had the honor of taking a picture with the First Lady. Indeed, it was a fortunate day spent with such honorable Canadians highly dedicated to their country’s well-being. As the election date approaches on Oct. 19 in Canada – for those undecided, it’s time to stand and support Dr. Giesbrecht who can make a difference in your community, given his impressive track record of dedication and experience.
West of Winnipeg to Brandon
After a pleasant lunch and farewell to Gordon, I hit the road to visit some friends whose cause is very dear to my heart. Phil and Bev Neufeld are the surviving parents of Ashley Neufeld, who died in 2009, along with two friends when their SUV crashed into a farm pond in Stark County, North Dakota. Ashley was 21 and a student at North Dakota’s Dickinson State University. As I drove the long, flat road crossing a bunch of agricole fields from Winnipeg to the Neufeld’s in Brandon, Canada, I recalled our work with the Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund – a cooperative effort with her parents to prevent tragedies like this from happening to other families. Resqme tools emblazoned with the logo of Ashley’s memorial fund have raised more than $50,000 for the Fund’s causes.
I was greeted warmly by the Neufeld’s and their son, Jeff. Ashley was a gifted softball athlete, so we went to see the progress of the new softball field being constructed in Brandon in part through funds from resqme sales imprinted with Ashley’s name. This softball park will be named under Ashley Neufeld in memory of her love for this sport. After a fine dinner at Blu restaurant, whose owner has been particularly supportive of the Neufeld’s cause, we returned to their home where I visited Ashley’s bedroom – everything has remained the same as she left it years ago. Her room was beautifully decorated in green colors with dark blue stripes and it was full of pictures of herself playing softball for Dickinson State University. A black metal chest was sitting on the floor, and on top of it was a wood box with a picture of Ashley with her dog, Easton, engraved with the year she was born and the year she died. Inside the box remain her ashes until the softball field is completed. Phil and Bev’s intentions are to erect a granite memorial at the entry to the field, in which a portion of Ashley’s ashes will rest. I offered to have the resqme foundation participate in this project by funding the cost of the monument.
We chatted for a little while longer and I went to rest and reflect on an emotional day. The next morning, I was treated to Bev’s home-cooked breakfast and we visited Brandon’s sport outlet – this was the store where resqme tool sales in the community started in 2009 and continue today, selling to benefit the Ashley Neufeld Memorial Fund.
Returning to my sweet home in Santa Barbara I’m struck at how this trip has been an amazing experience full of intense emotions and I realize how fortunate I am to meet such wonderful people in a short period of time. They said that I have changed their life since they’ve known me, but equally, they have changed mine. And I am grateful to somehow help make a difference in others’ lives.
The statistics don’t lie. Teenage drivers are responsible for an inordinately high proportion of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that 15-24 year old drivers are responsible for about 30 percent of accidents, even though they represent only 14 percent of the overall population. That means they are almost twice as likely to be involved in an accident than other age groups.
It seems obvious that the most inexperienced group of drivers would account for the highest number of car crashes. While underestimating dangerous situations, following too closely and failing to account for inclement weather are some of the most common causes for accidents amongst teens, a lack of driving experience doesn’t tell the whole story.
Teenage drivers also make poor decisions before even starting the car. Here are three easily avoidable choices that every new driver needs to be aware of.
Failure to Inspect The Vehicle
Most young drivers share a car with parents or other siblings, which makes inspecting your vehicle before you drive even more important. Walk around the car and visually check the tire pressure lights. Driving-tests.org has acomplete checklist of external features that should be inspected before you drive. Once inside, pay special attention to side and rearview mirror adjustment. Every driver has a preference when it comes to mirror placement, and you should always assume that someone has repositioned the mirrors since the last time you drove the car. Pick a fixed object in your blindspot–like a telephone pole or a parked car–and adjust the mirror until this object comes into view. Failure to account for other cars in a blind spot is one of the most common causes of accidents among new drivers. Your mirrors are the first line of defense.
Too Many Passengers
For teenagers, the ability to drive is synonymous with freedom, and that freedom typically includes picking up and transporting a carload of friends to school or the mall. However, the chance of an accident increases with each additional teenage passenger, according to the CDC. Every passenger is an opportunity for distraction and young passengers are far less likely to respect a driver’s need to focus on the road. During the first six months of driving, parents should limit the number of passengers to one. It’s the perfect number for getting your teen acclimated to driving with a controlled amount of distraction without them being overwhelmed by a car full of immature teens.
No Seat Belt
Teen drivers may not have a lot of experience driving, but they do have a lot of experience riding in a motor vehicle and wearing a seat belt. That’s why it’s so strange that teenagers have the lowest rate of seatbelt use. The CDC reports that in 2013, only 55 percent of high school students reported that they always put on a seatbelt when riding in car. In general, teenagers are more likely to take short trips, which can give them a false sense of security about their own safety. Make sure your new driver knows that a seat belt is for every trip, not just high-speed interstate travel. You are just as likely to get in an accident driving down the street as you are driving across the country. They should also have a zero tolerance policy for passengers who won’t wear a seat belt. In reality, no one is too cool for a little safety.