How to survive the most dangerous driving situations

October 9, 2015

When danger strikes on the road, don't panic—know what to do. Follow these life-saving tips to protect yourself and minimize damage to your vehicle.

How to survive the most dangerous driving situations

1. Stop your car from hydroplaning

  • Hydroplaning occurs when your car tires are driving on water, rather than directly on the pavement—usually when you're moving quickly and you suddenly drive through a deep puddle.
  • If it's raining hard enough, you don't even need to drive through a puddle to hydroplane—it can happen anywhere on the road. This is a pretty dangerous condition; it's very easy to lose control of the vehicle.
  • If it happens to you, don't brake—just let the car coast until the hydroplaning subsides (and if you're driving a manual transmission car, you'll want to engage the clutch).

2. Survive skids on ice and snow

  • Don't have a panic attack. Don't hit the brakes.
  • Take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction that you're skidding. If you must hit the brakes, apply steady but gentle pressure, but do not pump them or allow them to lock. The brakes will likely make some noise, but you should be back in control in no time.

3. Sit back to sidestep air-bag injury

  • Who's at highest risk for being injured by the air bags that are supposed to protect us?
  • According to the Michigan State Police, it's drivers who sit too close to the steering wheel. Sit back in your seat, rather than hunched over. Put at least 25 centimetres (10 inches) between yourself and the steering wheel—and, of course, always wear your seat belt.

4. Minimize the impact if the worst is inevitable

  • So a vehicle is coming towards you; maybe the driver is distracted (or even worse, asleep at the wheel). What should you do?
  • Make sure your headlights are on—bright oncoming lights will get the driver's attention—and that you're driving as close to the right side of your lane (away from the oncoming lane) as you can.
  • If the car is in your lane and it's not moving, don't play chicken with it. Slow down so that you minimize the force of an inevitable crash, then veer off the road to the right (not left, into the oncoming lane).
  • If it looks like you'll hit a street sign or another obstacle, so be it—at least it's not another moving vehicle traveling at top speed. Just try not to hit that obstacle head-on; see if you can manoeuvre your vehicle so that you hit it at an angle instead.

5. Don’t swerve with deer

  • Most deer-car collisions happen in the fall, between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight, say the Michigan State Police troopers.
  • If it's dark out, the easiest way to spot deer is to drive with your high-beam lights on—they illuminate the animals' eyes.
  • If you see a deer in your path, it's rarely prudent to swerve: it's better to strike a deer than another car, or a telephone pole or something else that can cause even more damage to you and your vehicle.
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