Crusin’ down the highway at 75 miles per hour surrounded by 3,000 lbs of metal, fiberglass and rubber is not the time to learn how to survive a road emergency. Would you know what to do in these common disasters?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 622 deaths on the road in tire-related crashes in 2021. Even if your tires are new and well maintained, a slice, a puncture or damage from road debris can cause it to fail. How do you handle a sudden blow out as you’re barreling down the highway? First, remain calm; panicking can make it worse. Don’t slam on your brakes! Keep accelerating but slowly reduce your speed. Use your steering wheel to stay in your lane and, with your emergency blinkers on, make your way to the shoulder.
The safest way to handle a downed line is: DON’T. Assume any line on the ground is a power line and that it is live. Drive away from them; driving over them may pull the pole down onto you. If you are in an accident, can’t drive and you’re in imminent danger of fire or other hazards, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends that you should jump clear without touching your vehicle. Try to land with your feet together then slowly make your way to safety at least 30 feet from the downed wires. Stay away from water, fences and puddles as electricity can travel through the ground.
Think your SUV can handle a flooded road? Think again. “People need to respect the water,” advises John Peterson, Community Relation Coordinator for the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. “Most flood deaths are in vehicles. It only takes about six inches of rapidly moving water to sweep away an adult, it only takes maybe twelve to take away a small car and a foot and a half to two feet to take away an SUV.” If your vehicle is trapped in moving water, stay put. But, if water is moving at a high velocity and rapidly rising in your vehicle, exit the vehicle immediately, seek refuge on the roof and signal for help.
Peterson has words of advice regarding tornados, too. “That’s the one natural disaster that’s a no-notice event” so it’s up to you stay informed! When conditions are right for tornados stay informed. Listen to your radio, pay attention to emergency alerts on your phone and download a weather app. John recommends the FEMA emergency weather app for tornado watches and warnings. If you’re on the road and a tornado has been sighted, don’t try to outrun it. Drive to the closest shelter. If you can’t make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, over 38,700 crashes annually are fog-related. The National Weather Service has these tips: slow down and allow plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you. Use your low-beam headlights since this means your taillights will also be on. Use fog lights if you have them. Never use your high-beam lights, they cause glare and make it harder to see what’s ahead of you. Follow the lines on the road with your eyes. When visibility is near zero, the best course of action is to turn on your hazard lights and pull off the road as far as you can. Once you’ve stopped, turn off all lights except your hazard flashing lights, set the emergency brake, and take your foot off the brake pedal. You don’t want confuse other drivers with your tail lights.
On cold days that patch of wet road may be black ice which usually forms on tree-lined routes, tunnels or on less-traveled roads. Treat it like regular ice. Slow down and increase your following distance, avoid sudden stops and starts and don’t use your cruise control. If you do skid, don’t panic! Use the minimum amount of braking possible and always steer the car in the direction you want to go. The US Forrest Service suggests you and your young drivers should practice this in a safe area, such as a parking lot, and they have a guide to help you polish your skills.
INSECTS IN YOUR CAR
In a Gary Larson Far Side comic, a woman driver nervously looks at her rear-view mirror, checking out the man-sized bee sitting in her backseat. She tells herself not to panic, she’ll pull over and let him out of the car. Good advice! As in any emergency, stay calm. Swatting can not only cause your car to swerve and wasps are sensitive to movement! Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Slow gradually and find a safe place to pull over. Step away from the car with all the doors open to allow it to escape. If the bee needs persuasion to leave, use a rolled-up magazine or your shoe to encourage him to fly off. Remember, a bite or sting is less painful than a crash!
Staying calm saves lives. Pulling over or turning around can extricate you and your passengers in almost any emergency. Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to search the web for a survival tip, knowing what to do in case of an emergency can save you and your passengers!