Chapter 1
DRIVING EMERGENCIES
Within the first year of obtaining a Driver's license, a 16-year old driver has a one out of four chance of being in a collision.

Special Awareness
It is vital for all drivers to be aware of the environment in which they travel, other drivers around them and the vehicle they control.

A. Light Rain / First Rain - The first rain often leads to a dangerous condition in which to operate a motor vehicle. This early rain lifts the oil up from the road surface, but it does not completely wash away the slippery substance. Unfortunately, many drivers are generally unwilling to slow down to a level that the first rain requires. Light rain tends to be ignored by people who continue driving as if the roads were clear and dry. What they fail to realize is that this light rain makes the road slick and simply does not provide enough water to wash away all the accumulated oil and debris. Speed should be dramatically reduced, with extra stopping distance allowed and extreme caution exercised. It is important to remember that when road conditions and surfaces change, braking distance and traction change as well.

B. One-Way Streets - Used mainly in the city, one-way streets help to eliminate confusion in heavily traveled areas and to keep the flow of traffic moving. Unfortunately, these types of streets often pose unique dangers to drivers. Wrong way drivers are common, as are other motorists making turns from unsafe lanes. You need to know how to properly enter and exit one-way streets, and you need to be prepared to slow dramatically if necessary. Always choose the safest lane.

Statistics

  • The leading cause of freeway accidents is “FOLLOWING TOO CLOSELY."
  • 50% of all accidents are caused by drivers 16 - 24 years of age.
  • 24% of all fatal accidents involve drivers 16 - 24 years of age.

 
 

Car Design
Car manufacturers design vehicles with safety in mind. Take some time to familiarize yourself with your vehicle's safety features, as they assist in accident prevention.

A. Windshield - The purpose of the windshield is to protect the driver or passengers from the environment. Fibers and plastic are often laminated within the glass so the windshield will not shatter completely in an accident. A clean, clear windshield is a vital element for driving, yet this fact is often overlooked as a safety tip. Properly functioning windshield wipers are not just useful during rain or snow, but may also clear the windshield in case of sand or dust storms. (Under ordinary storm conditions, windshield wipers should be able to clear fog, snow or rain.) Even if you are the most skilled driver on the road, you cannot control your vehicle if visibility is impaired. Prior to driving, it is imperative that you check your visibility to ensure it is not hampered by a dirty windshield. It is illegal to drive a vehicle on the roads if your vision is impaired to the front or rear by a poorly maintained or defective windshield or rear window. Any vehicle manufactured after July 1, 1970 must have a windshield.

Note: Do not affix objects such as stickers to your vehicle's windshield because they may obstruct your visibility. Signs or hanging objects from the rear view mirror are also prohibited. Tinted safety glass is only allowed if it conforms to U.S. Department of Transportation standards and does not affect the safe operation of the vehicle. Tinted front side windows must allow at least 32% visibility and cannot have more than 20% of light to be reflected. The only exemptions include factory applied tint, certain commercial vehicles such as limousines and buses, and anyone who needs the darker windows due to a medical condition.

B. Crumple Zones - Cars are designed to collapse in an accident in order to absorb the force on impact. The “accordion” look often seen in cars involved in serious accidents is affected by design, whereas the energy of the accident is dispersed throughout the vehicle's crumpled mass. Assuming the driver and any passengers remain in the vehicle, safely buckled, this design feature dramatically reduces injury in accidents.

C. Truck Under-Ride - Large trucks have a bar affixed to the rear that extends down from their trailer. They are designed to prevent cars from going under large trucks during an accident. As the rear-ender is the most common accident type, this helps to prevent the tops of vehicles from being sheared off by the trailers of large trucks.

D. Mirrors - Each vehicle must be equipped with a mirror that can reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of the vehicle. Each vehicle must also have no less than two mirrors, including one affixed to the left hand side. 

Emergencies

Driving on the roads of Georgia requires attentiveness, skill, a vehicle that is responsive, a little luck, and a subconscious mind that can quickly react. When an emergency occurs on the road, the decision to act must be a split-second one, and you must know instinctively what to do. The following will prepare you for an emergency driving situation:

A. Brake Failure - Many factors, such as wet brakes and brake overheating, can cause brake failure. Wet brakes often result from driving through puddles or standing water, and brake overheating is usually caused by prolonged use or hard driving. There is a requirement that every vehicle on the road in Georgia be in proper working order with functional equipment. In passenger vehicles, there are two main braking systems: a hydraulic four wheel brake system, and a mechanically operated rear wheel parking brake. All brakes and brake components should be maintained in good condition at all times. Properly maintained brakes are not only required by law but are essential for the safe operation of the motor vehicle. It is advisable to check out the condition of a vehicle's brakes periodically to ensure that they function properly. An emergency situation would involve a total failure of the brakes along with the vehicle gaining momentum and speed heading downhill. If total brake failure occurs, there are several corrective actions you can initiate. Procedures to follow include:

    1. Pumping Brakes - Oftentimes a brake line is clogged and brake fluid is not flowing properly. Pumping would attempt to distribute brake fluid adequately. Try this solution first.

    NOTE: Do not pump Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) . To initiate ABS Brakes, you must fully compress the brake pedal to near maximum capacity. This will activate the computer to pulsate the brake pads automatically and will continue while pressure is held down.

    2. Downshift - The goal with downshifting is to create more friction in the transmission. Shifting to a lower gear allows you to use engine compression to help slow down the vehicle. Downshifting would also be effective in an automatic transmission vehicle.

    3. Apply Parking Brake - Use of the parking brake should be a gradual application, with no dramatic movements. Dramatic tugging at the brake may cause loss of vehicle control and overturning. (The parking brake in many vehicles is rarely used. Many drivers mistakenly believe that a vehicle parked while still in gear is unlikely to roll. The parking brake, however, is in a motor vehicle for a reason. Car manufacturers can save countless thousands of dollars during vehicle production if they were to omit parking brakes. However, the value of the parking brake is immeasurable. A properly functioning parking brake should be used at all times in conjunction with a vehicle left in gear or in the parked position. The parking brake should be sufficient to hold the vehicle on any grade and capable of locking the wheels to limit any vehicle movement.) Your goal is to slow down the vehicle by any means and not lock up your wheels, as it may only cause more problems.

    4. Attempt to Warn Others - When your vehicle's brakes are not functioning, honk the horn or make other efforts to notify other drivers out of fairness to them. An out-of-control vehicle is a hazard to all on the road.

    5. Sideswipe Objects (attempting to reduce speed) - Sideswiping involves slowing the vehicle by deflecting the car off other objects on the road. No object should ever be hit head-on, nor should objects like curbs be hit, as they could cause the car to over-turn. Guard rails and parked cars would be good objects to sideswipe, as they might gradually slow down the vehicle.

    6. Shift into Reverse - If all else fails, shift into reverse. This action will grind all the gears of the transmission together and will also slow down the vehicle. The transmission will be destroyed, but your life may be saved.

    NOTE: The vehicle should never be turned off in an attempt to stop.
    This action will cause other car functions, such as steering, to also fail.

B. Tire Blowout - A simple flat is often manageable when driving. A blowout, however, includes the shredding of a tire to the point where one is left driving on a rim with no control of the vehicle. If you need to swerve into an object, do so into something that will "give," reducing the chance of injury. Sound the horn and flash the lights to alert other drivers that there is a problem. The first reaction for most drivers when a blowout occurs is to slam down on the brakes. This instant human reaction, however, will only cause more damage. Instead, you should hold the steering wheel firmly and keep the vehicle moving straight ahead. You should know the following actions to prevent an accident in case of these blowouts:

    1. Left Front Tire - If the left front tire blows out, the car will pull to the left, and the steering will be quite heavy. Do not fight the pull, but instead grab hold of the steering wheel with both hands, gain control of the vehicle, and gradually slow down the vehicle. No dramatic or excessive braking should be attempted.

    2. Right Front Tire - If the right front tire blows out, the car will pull to the right, and the steering will be quite heavy. Do not fight the pull, but instead grab hold of the steering wheel with both hands, gain control of the vehicle, and gradually slow down the vehicle. No dramatic or excessive braking should be attempted. At speeds below 55 mph, a blow-out should be an easily controlled emergency.

    3. Rear Tires - A blowout in any of the rear tires will cause the car to fishtail and feel unstable in the rear. Control of the steering wheel is vital, as is awareness of any other vehicles around. Slowing down the car gradually will help alleviate accident potential.

C. Skids - An out-of-control skid is caused when the vehicle's tires lose contact with the road. Often, a thin layer of water gets between the tires and the road, and the vehicle begins to hydroplane. The old adage, “steer or turn into the skid,” applies only if you know the intended meaning. In a skid, the back wheels of the vehicle are the ones actually skidding, with the front tires following. You must turn the steering wheel in the direction the back wheels are skidding, or in short, steer the vehicle in the intended direction. Some call it “counter” steering, while others simply call it “correcting” the skid. Regardless of what you call it, your goal is to have the wheels of the vehicle again grasp the road and find the pavement grooves. Drivers commonly turn the steering wheel into the direction the vehicle is perceived to be skidding, which is the direction the front of the vehicle is headed. This will only add to the problem and send the car spiraling out of control. In a car with front wheel drive, the same actions should be taken, but some minor acceleration should be applied. Again, the attempt is to re-acquaint the car's wheels with the pavement.

Special note on skids...

  • Avoid turning or swerving suddenly; do these gradually
  • Don't apply the brakes; to slow down, gradually take your foot off the accelerator while you keep the clutch engaged
  • Pay special attention to driving on snow or ice
  • Avoid driving on the shoulder of the road
  • When traction is poor to begin with, drive in a higher gear and accelerate gradually

D. Oncoming Car / Wrong Side of the Road - The goal when faced with a vehicle coming towards you from the opposite direction is to take evasive action as quickly as possible. Waiting until the last second to initiate a maneuver rarely gives you enough time to avoid a collision. An early evasive move might cause, at worst, a sideswipe or a rear-end collision, but this will help you avoid the more dangerous head-on collision. In order to minimize the chance of an accident, you should slow down as quickly as possible, pull to the extreme right or drive off the road completely, flash the headlights and sound the horn.

E. Steering Wheel Locks - The key ignition should never be moved or adjusted while the vehicle is in motion, so this problem should never occur. However, if the steering wheel were to lock, slow down the vehicle as quickly as possible by whatever means are necessary to minimize any loss of vehicle control.

F. Car Stalls/Breakdowns - The actions you should take with a stalled car will vary according to time and location, among other factors. The goal is to show other drivers that your vehicle is disabled and road service or a tow is required. These rules usually apply:


1. Try to get your car off the road.
Removing your car from the road will reduce the possibility of another vehicle hitting you. However, if left on the road for any reason, the vehicle must have its hazard lights on. A dark vehicle on the road is an accident waiting to happen. NOTE: The purpose of emergency flashers is to alert other drivers that an emergency situation or accident is ahead. If the emergency flashers do not work, put on the vehicle's turn signals instead.

2. Remain in the car and lock the doors. Walking aimlessly on the side of the road looking for assistance is unwise and unsafe. Sitting in the locked vehicle waiting for law enforcement is the most prudent move. Law enforcement is always alert to disabled vehicles. NOTE: When the vehicle is disabled on a freeway, always attempt to pull to the shoulder and try to warn approaching traffic when necessary. (Use signals, hazard lights or flares.)

G. Accelerator Sticks - A stuck accelerator is usually not a major problem and can be solved by stepping repeatedly on the accelerator. If the car continues to increase in speed, however, either step on the clutch to disengage the gears or shift the vehicle into the neutral position. As a last resort, you can turn the vehicle off completely, but this action may result in a loss of the power steering.

H. Fan Belt Sticks or Breaks - The vehicle will most probably overheat if you have a problem with the fan belt. Turn on the vehicle's heat to the highest setting. This will draw much of the heat from the engine block, helping to cool down the vehicle. Do not drive for more than a few minutes in this condition.

I. Steering Problems - Steering problems should not be solved on the road while driving. Slow down immediately. If power steering fails, you will have to work extremely hard to steer the vehicle, but full control will not be lost. Use your flashers and bright lights to warn others that there is a problem.

J. Headlight Failure 

  • Try switching the headlights on and off a few times.
  • Try to adjust the dimmer switch.
  • Try turning on the parking lights, emergency lights, or turn signals.
K. Hood Latch Failure - If the hood latch fails and the hood opens while you are driving, the following actions can be taken:
  • Slow down your vehicle immediately.
  • Put your head out of the window and look around the hood.
  • Use the center marking lines or lanes as a guide.
  • Pull off the road as soon as possible, as you pose a risk to yourself and other drivers.
  • Turn on your emergency lights.

L. Stuck tires - When tires get stuck in the snow or a similar substance like mud, shift the car into low gear and attempt to pull forward as much as possible, with the wheels angled straight ahead. When wheels are turned to the side, they provide a greater resistance to forward and reverse motions. Do the same maneuver in reverse, and then go forward again, without spinning the tires. This forward and backward motion should be repeated until the car moves free. A wood object such as a branch or board may be used under the tires if they are submerged very deeply. The use of snow chains helps reduces the chances of the tires getting stuck.

M. Soft Shoulders - The soft shoulder on highways is to be used in emergency situations only. Driving on the soft shoulder is highly dangerous because that can lead to loss of vehicle control, and it is also illegal. Some shoulders are paved which allow for optimum vehicle traction, but soft shoulders are usually just packed dirt which is unstable and should only be utilized in an emergency situation.

N. Bad Pavement - It is vital as a defensive driver to be aware of all road conditions that may affect your safe use of the highway. Bad pavement is a major contributing factor to many traffic collisions. The vehicle may lose traction with the road as a result of pot holes or bumps, while other factors make it difficult to simply steer the vehicle altogether. You should get to know the road conditions of areas where you intend to travel prior to beginning the trip. Local law enforcement or city agencies can keep drivers updated to all road conditions. Preparation for bad pavement or the choice to take an alternative route can help reduce accident potential. When speeds are increased during freeway driving, be prepared to steer around blocked roadways or obstructions to the roadway. Try and steer around any stalled cars as well, and warn other vehicles behind by utilizing brake and hazard lights.

O. Drop-Offs - Drop-offs are dangerous shoulders of the road which drop off or are beveled into an abrupt drop from the normal roadway. Falling rain may also create a flowing gutter of water often a foot or more deep, creating an even more unstable driving situation. If your tires do drop off the side of the roadway for any reason, DO NOT APPLY THE BRAKES! The uneven traction may cause a loss of control. Gradually take your foot off the accelerator while you maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel. 

P. Stuck in Deep Water - An overloaded vehicle has an increased chance of stalling in water. If you run into deep water and get stuck, but do not sink, try to escape immediately through a window. If you do sink, wait until the pressure equalizes before you try and open a window or door. First get into the back seat where air pockets usually form and kick out the back window. The back window is designed to come off fairly easily.

Q. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Vehicle motors give off carbon monoxide which is a deadly gas. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do not leave the motor running in a garage.
  • Do not leave the motor running with the windows closed when you park your vehicle
  • Do not use the heater or air conditioner in a parked vehicle with the windows closed.
  • Do not leave the vents open when following closely behind another vehicle.
  • Do not drive with a defective muffler or exhaust system.

Major factors in teen accidents:

  • Speed
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Disregarding right-of-way rules
  • Tailgating, or following too close
  • Fatigue
  • Reckless driving

Collision Avoidance - Handling Emergencies

Prevention and avoidance is the best way to deal with a potential collision. Here are a few tips to practice:

  • Be alert and well-rested.
  • Always expect the unexpected. Never assume drivers will follow through on what they appear to be doing.
  • Keep eyes moving (12-15 seconds or 1/4 mile ahead).
  • Maintain 3-4 second following rule as needed.
  • Look for potential hazards, poor road conditions, wrecks, etc.
  • Seek out an escape route, if available.
  • Check the vehicles behind you every 5-7 seconds.
  • Adjust speed to suit conditions.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Honk your horn when appropriate (you are only allowed to use your horn to avoid or warn others of a potential collision).
  • Watch out for trucks and buses.
  • Watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Signal and announce your intentions.

    Remember, practicing good vehicle maintenance can greatly reduce the chances of emergency situations on the road.