5 tips to survive emergencies on the road
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Keep calm and drive on
Most fatal single-vehicle crashes involve the vehicle running off the road. Here's what happens in many of them: An inattentive or distracted driver allows the car's right tires to drop off the pavement or onto Interstate rumble strips. The loud noise suddenly alerts the driver that he's drifting to the right, causing him to yank left on the steering wheel. The wayward front tire regains grip while one or both rear tires are in the loose stuff. With little or no rear traction, the vehicle spins out and leaves the highway—and could even flip.
The way to avoid this fate is to stay calm and not overreact. If you find yourself drifting off the road, let off the gas and allow the car to slow down, and gently ease back on the road. Do not depress the brake unless you see an obstacle approaching and need to get back in your lane faster. Whatever you do, be smooth with the steering; a little goes a long way at high speeds.
Put It in Neutral
A stuck throttle is an automotive mugging: It's unexpected, petrifying, and what you do in the next few seconds may change your life forever. The solution is easy: Slap the shift lever into neutral. In the vast majority of cars, the passenger can do this as easily as the driver. Almost all modern cars have physical or electronic devices that prevent the transmission from going into reverse or park while you're driving down the road, as well as electronic limiters to preclude engine damage, so you don't have to worry about hurting the car by putting it in neutral. A manual transmission car might take a little bit more force to put into the neutral gate, but it'll go as well.
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I've experienced stuck accelerators caused by faulty cables, misplaced floor mats, and panicked driving-event students who mistakenly mash the throttle pedal rather than brake. I've always quickly cured the problem by bumping the shifter into neutral or, when driving a manual-transmission car, depressing the clutch.