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Friday, October 14, 2011

Vehicle Safety Tips: Minimize Crash Damage from Losing Control of Your Car

At least two teens in the US and one in Canada died recently after swerving to avoid hitting an animal in the middle of the road and losing control of their vehicles.

An ongoing problem that teen drivers face is how to control a car once it leaves the road. So many teens are killed this way because, once they feel the car leave the road, they instinctively turn the wheel sharply to return to the road, often causing the car to skid sideways and flip. This instinctual act is known as "over-correcting" and it can be very dangerous.

There are times when drivers face hard choices in the road; whether to swerve or to turn in a direction that will still lead to a crash but minimize the crash damage.

No one wants to hurt an animal on the road while driving, but sometimes the choice has to be made in a split second to either hit the animal or hurt yourself. With this in mind, teens and new drivers should be taught how to recover a vehicle that has left the road. This maneuver can be practiced on the edge of an empty parking lot or at low speeds on a deserted road.

To successfully recover, once the wheels leave the road, the driver should:

  • Fight the instinctual urge to jerk the wheel back onto the road
  • Firmly grip the steering wheel
  • Take your foot off the gas pedal and allow the car to slow on its own
  • Look ahead and make small steering changes to keep the vehicle on the shoulder and avoid obstacles
  • Gently apply the brake to slow the vehicle down to a safe and manageable speed
  • Check the rear-view mirrors to make sure it is safe to return into the traffic flow
  • Once the car has slowed, and it is safe to return to the road, turn the wheel just enough to steer the vehicle back onto the roadway
  • Once the vehicle is back on the roadway, steer gently to center the vehicle in the lane.

Teens need to practice this procedure more than once if they are going to overcome the natural tendency to over-correct. If they have practiced it enough, their instinct will be to take the proper action rather than to over-correct.

Another sign of a good defensive driver is the continual mental process of always looking for an escape route, should an obstacle appear in the roadway.

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