Like any machine, cars have countless parts that can break, fail or malfunction. Gas pedals can stick, wheels can fall off, and that flimsy glass windshield can be shattered faster than you can blink.
And with Mother Nature’s ability to put drivers in potentially-fatal situations in a heartbeat, driving quickly amounts to one of the riskiest things we do on a daily basis.
Question is: are you prepared if disaster strikes at the wheel?
Here’s a look at how to maximize your chances of survival in three of the likeliest worst-case scenarios.
Problem: You’ve just passed a car on the highway and you discover your throttle is stuck to the floor. You start to panic, and speed is piling on dangerously.
Possible Solution: Forget turning off the engine. The first course of action is to slip the vehicle into neutral. Doing so takes half a second, and physically decouples the engine from the wheels. In neutral, your vehicle can’t accelerate — no matter how hard the throttle is pressed.
Once in neutral, brake and coast off to the side of the road. Turn the engine off, fix the problem and carry on. If your car has a stick-shift, pressing the clutch has the same effect.
The Problem: You’re travelling at speed when a piece of ice or debris from the roof of a transport truck becomes dislodged and strikes your windshield. There’s broken glass in your eyes, and your vehicle is now a projectile with a blind pilot.
Possible Solution: Ian Law is the chief instructor of the ILR Car Control School. He’s been teaching advanced safe driving techniques for years — and recommends a pre-emptive approach to successfully tackling a catastrophic non-visibility situation.
“This is a scenario where staying focused on your driving pays off in dividends. A good driver will have been focused on their driving and the situation before the incident. This is called “situational awareness,” and it involves processing all driving information so that the driver knows at all times what is around them — and where”.
Translation? Practice being aware of what’s around you at all times, and you’ve got better odds of surviving blindness at the wheel.
The Problem: You’re driving through very thick fog, and suddenly discover that you’re mere seconds away from plowing head on into the back of a massive pile-up. You’re driving too fast to stop.
Possible Solution: Getting your vehicle out of the roadway is likely to offer a higher chance of survival — so aim for the ditch, not the pile-up.
You and your passengers can more easily survive a single impact entering the ditch than the numerous impacts likely in a pile-up situation.
Law adds, “I always say you are much better off waiting three hours for a tow truck to pull you out of a ditch than waiting 20 minutes to have the paramedics pull your body out of the wreckage.”