How to Handle Vehicle Emergencies

Written by Staff Writer

Everyday driving typically consists of endless hours of driving on familiar roads without incident. In an emergency, these hours are followed by a few moments of terror. When you encounter a vehicular emergency, it is imperative that you understand ways and options to address the emergency, particularly since emergencies seem to happen in the least desirable moments and circumstances.

To better enable implementation of appropriate responses to vehicular emergencies, we are now going to review methods and techniques that you may utilize to deal with these emergencies.

When you are driving, things can happen very quickly. You may have only a fraction of a second to make the right move. Follow these guidelines for handling emergencies.

What should you do if your car breaks down?

  1. If possible, park where the disabled vehicle can be seen for 200 feet in each direction.
  2. Move the vehicle so all four wheels are off the pavement.
  3. Turn on your emergency flashers.
  4. Get all passengers out on the side away from traffic.
  5. Tie a white cloth on the left door handle or antenna.
  6. Raise the hood.

What should you do if your brakes are wet?

  1. Test brakes by tapping or pressing on them lightly after driving through deep water.
  2. Brakes may pull to one side or may not hold at all.
  3. Dry brakes by driving slowly in low gear and applying pressure to the brakes.

What should you do if you have a tire blowout?

  1. Do not use your brakes and take your foot off the gas pedal or release your cruise control.
  2. Concentrate on steering. Try to continue straight ahead as the car will pull in the direction of the flat.
  3. Slow down gradually and begin moving toward the shoulder of the road.
  4. Brake softly when the car is under control.
  5. Pull completely off the pavement.
  6. When you start to change the tire, make sure you are far enough off the road so that you will not back up into or fall in front of moving traffic.
  7. If you can't change the tire, call for help or follow the breakdown information covered earlier.

What can you do to stop your car in the event of brake failure?

  1. Once you notice the brake failure, quickly pump your brakes to try and use any residual pressure in the brakes.
  2. Take your foot off the gas pedal; try shifting to a lower gear. Let wind resistance and drive train friction slow your vehicle down.
  3. Use your emergency brake if possible to control the brakes. If you have an emergency brake handle, keep the button on the end pressed down so the wheels will not lock up. If you do not know how to use your emergency brake, consult your owner's manual.
  4. Look for something to rub against. A fence, a guardrail, or bushes would work. Try to pick something that will give way when you hit against it to reduce damage to the car and to you. Once the car is stopped, do not drive it again until the brakes are fixed.

What can you do when your power steering fails?

  1. You will still have directional control of the vehicle, but the steering wheel will be difficult to turn.
  2. Slow down and reduce the number of sharp turns you will need to make. The sharper the turn, the more effort it will require to turn the steering wheel.
  3. Get the steering system checked by an expert and have it repaired if necessary. Driving Safety Articles: This article was written by defensive driving staff writers and reviewed for accuracy by defensive driving instructors. All articles are based on current traffic laws and defensive driving practices. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice or literal interpretation of any specific traffic law.