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Emergency Maneuvers

Introduction


Occasionally you encounter unexpected obstacles that demand more skill than you practice with your everyday driving maneuvers. Emergency maneuvers are often required to avoid collisions or regain control of the vehicle.

Be prepared in the correct seating position with your hands in the low-hand steering position. To reduce the probability of serious injury keep your safety belt securely fastened at all times.

To quickly avoid an obstacle, steering is often more efficient than braking.

If you find yourself in a skid, make every effort to regain traction. Look and steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go and remember not to over-correct your steering.

These are a few advanced driving tips that are presented in detail within this module about emergency maneuvers. Topics covered include:
  1. Braking Methods
  2. Steering Methods
  3. Off-road Recovery
  4. Skid Detection
  5. Skid Recovery

1. Braking Methods

Braking may be the best choice if you have enough time and distance to avoid colliding with an object in your path. Just before a crash occurs, many drivers panic and "slam" on the brakes. Unfortunately this may lock the wheels and put the vehicle into a skid.


Anti-lock Brake Systems

The primary benefit of anti-lock brakes is to enable the driver to steer the vehicle while bringing it to a stop during an emergency situation. Anti-lock brakes may not make much difference in stopping distances on dry roads, but they do help drivers maintain control of the vehicle during sudden stops on wet or slippery surfaces.

It is important to know if your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock brake system (ABS). Check the instrument panel to see if the "ABS" light illuminates for a short period of time after you start the vehicle you are driving.

In a vehicle equipped with anti-lock brakes, a sensor on each wheel monitors speed and detects when a tire starts to skid. As soon as the skid is detected, the ABS automatically pulses the brake pressure (up to 20 times a second) on any wheel to get it to turn again. The purpose of ABS is to prevent the wheels from locking so the driver can steer the vehicle while continuing to bring it to a stop.

In an ABS-equipped vehicle, when you put on the brakes hard enough to make the wheels lock momentarily, you will typically feel the brake pedal pulse back against your foot. This is a normal pulsing action and indicates that the ABS is working.

Vehicles Without Anti-lock Brakes

In an effort to stop the vehicle quickly, many drivers will lift their heel off the floor and slam down on the brake pedal with the ball of their foot. In a vehicle not equipped with anti-lock brakes, this over reaction will generally lock the wheels and put the vehicle into a skid. If you must stop suddenly in a vehicle without ABS, use the threshold braking method. Follow these procedures:

  • Pivot your foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal.
  • Quickly press the brake firmly, stopping just short of locking the wheels.
  • If the wheels begin to lock, let up slightly with your toes to release brake pressure one or two degrees, just enough to get the wheels turning again, then immediately reapply it with slightly less pressure.
  • Continue pressing the pedal until the vehicle comes to a stop.

Threshold Braking

In some emergency situations, the best action is a combination of controlled braking and evasive steering. The purpose of controlled braking is to achieve the shortest possible stopping distance without losing directional control. With or without ABS, the best way to make a controlled stop in an emergency is to use the threshold braking method. With the heel of your foot on the floor, use your toes to quickly apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal just short of lockup--the point at which the wheels stop turning.

2. Steering Methods

What would you do if a truck ahead of you suddenly dropped a ladder in your path?

You are traveling too fast to stop, but you might have enough time to steer and avoid hitting the ladder. Search and adjust speed/space for improved visibility and room to maneuver.


If you see a hazard directly in your path requiring an immediate evasive maneuver, rely on your ability to quickly and effectively operate your steering wheel and brakes. In some emergency situations, it is best to use a combination of the controls.

If you are traveling over 30 mph and an obstacle suddenly appears in your path, there probably is not enough time or distance for you to stop. Rather than collide with the obstacle, steering to avoid it takes less time and is just as effective. However, you must be careful to avoid other obstacles and sharp, abrupt, uncontrolled steering movements or over-correcting.
  • Identify a clear path to one side of the vehicle.
  • Look and steer with precise control in the direction you want the vehicle to go - be cautious not to steer into another hazard. Do not cross lanes into oncoming traffic.
  • Stabilize the vehicle and return to your lane.


Controlled braking will reduce the damage to your vehicle when there is not enough time or distance to stop.


When you cannot stop in time to avoid hitting something, steer around it. To make quick turns you must hold the steering wheel correctly. Place your hands on opposite sides of the steering wheel at the 8 o'clock and 4 o'clock hand positions.

Why the 8 and 4 position? The new recommendation allows more freedom of movement based on your height, arm length, seat height and steering wheel position. It also gives room for the air bag to deploy without injuring your hands.

For most drivers, when properly seated, an 8 and 4 hand position allows a smooth rotation of the steering wheel in either direction of nearly 90 to 160 degrees in either direction without crossing your arms. With the push/pull or push/pull/slide method, while one hand pushes or pulls the steering wheel up or down in the direction of the turn, the other hand slides up or down to make fine adjustments as necessary.


3. Off-road Recovery

What would you do if a driver in an oncoming vehicle on a two-lane undivided roadway suddenly loses control of his vehicle and swerves into your lane?

This is a manageable situation. You should steer to the right. Here are successful techniques to execute a controlled off-road recovery.

Going Off the Road

  • Do not panic - release the accelerator and stay off the brake.
  • Look at your escape route to the right - your two right wheels or all four wheels may be on the unpaved shoulder.
  • If there is enough time and space, let the vehicle slow gradually before leaving the paved surface.
  • Turn the steering wheel right just enough to get onto the shoulder - your two right wheels or all four wheels may be on the unpaved shoulder. The off-road wheels should be 12 to 18 inches from the edge of the pavement.






Returning to the Road

  • Look for a spot where the unpaved shoulder is about the same height (no more than two inches lower) as the paved road.
  • Check your rear-view mirror, side-view mirror, and blind spots for obstructions.
  • Signal your intentions before returning to the roadway.
  • When the path is clear, turn the steering wheel 1/16 to 1/8 of a turn to the left. Immediately after you feel the front tire(s) make contact with the edge of the pavement, turn the steering wheel to the right about 1/8 of a turn. At the same time, accelerate to prevent over-steering.
  • Once you are back on the road, position your vehicle in the center of your lane and accelerate to the proper speed.
Note that the height difference between the paved road and the shoulder may affect the stability of your vehicle. Avoid panic braking or acceleration which could cause your vehicle to skid. Finally, if you turn the steering wheel too sharply, your vehicle may skid, roll over, or head directly across the roadway into oncoming traffic.

4. Skid Detection

Most drivers feel helpless during a skid because they lose traction and control of the vehicle's direction. Early detection is key to safe recovery. Most skids are caused by drivers traveling too fast for conditions.


Excessive speed and wet, snowy, icy, or sandy road conditions combined with abrupt braking, steering, or acceleration can cause a skid. When you drive on reduced traction surfaces and try to change speed or direction too quickly, or try to change speed and direction at the same time, you greatly increase the risk of skidding.

Early skid detection includes recognizing the cause. Skids are caused by: hard braking, abrupt acceleration, or traveling too fast.
  • Braking skid. Braking skids occur when the brakes are applied so hard that the front or rear wheels lose traction. Regardless of which wheels lock, steering control will be lost. If the front wheels lock or lose traction (understeer), the vehicle skids straight ahead. If the rear wheels lock or lose traction (oversteer), the rear of the vehicle slides sideways.

  • Power skid. A power skid occurs when you suddenly press too hard on the accelerator and the drive wheels (front or rear) lose traction. A vehicle with front-wheel drive plows straight ahead. The rear end of a rear-wheel drive vehicle will skid to the side (fish tail).

  • Cornering skid. If you drive too fast while making a turn or traveling through a curve, the front or rear wheels may lose traction. In a front-wheel skid, the vehicle will plow through the corner and tend to run off the outside corner. In a rear-wheel skid, the rear end of the vehicle may slide sideways.
As you continue to drive and encounter conditions that cause skids, think about the keys to early detection. Doing so will help you to handle these rare driving emergencies when the "real thing" happens.

Skid Recovery

Even for experienced drivers, skids can be frightening and dangerous. When road conditions change and traction is reduced, your tires could lose their grip on the road's surface, causing a skid and loss of vehicle control.

Regaining control of your vehicle when you find yourself in a skid requires you to:
  • Respond quickly and don't panic.
  • Look and steer in direction of the skid.
  • Make smooth steering corrections.
  • Don't give up. You may have to make several steering corrections before you regain steering control.
Slightly different procedures are required to recover from various skids:
  • Braking skid. Recover from a braking skid by releasing the brakes just enough to allow the wheels to turn. When the wheels begin to roll, steering control will return. If you still need to slow the vehicle, use the threshold braking method.

  • Power skid. Recover from a power skid by easing off the accelerator until the wheels stop spinning. Then make steering corrections as necessary until you are back on your intended travel path.

  • Cornering skid. To correct a rear-wheel skid, ease up on the accelerator, avoid using the brakes and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go. A number of steering corrections may be necessary. To correct a front-wheel skid, ease up on the accelerator and steer toward your intended travel path. If you release the accelerator too quickly in this situation, the rear of the vehicle may slide sideways.
Most skids are caused by driver error, although only about 15% of collisions are the direct result of a vehicle skidding. Most crashes happen because drivers take no action, the wrong action, or last-minute actions. Do not be one of those drivers. Understand the environment you are traveling in and compensate as necessary.

Review:


We encounter unexpected obstacles that demand more skill than we practice with our everyday driving maneuvers.

Be prepared in the correct seating position with your hands in the low-hand steering position. To reduce the probability of serious injury, keep your safety belt securely fastened at all times.

Braking may be the best choice if you have enough time and distance to avoid colliding with an object in your path.

If you have ABS, apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Do not pump the brake pedal or remove your foot from the brake.

There are major advantages of using push/pull steering with lower hand positions:
  • Injuries to the arms, hands, face, and eyes are greatly reduced during a collision when the driver-side air bag deploys.
  • Maintaining a hand position more closely associated with a normal seating position reduces muscle fatigue.
  • The driver tends to not turn as much; a common mistake in emergency maneuvers which can result in running off the road.
Excessive speed and wet, snowy, icy, or sandy road conditions combined with abrupt braking, steering, or acceleration could cause a skid. If you experience a skid:
  • Respond quickly and do not panic.
  • Look and steer in direction of the skid.
  • Make smooth steering corrections.
  • Do not give up. You may have to make several steering corrections before you regain steering control.
Remember, skids are usually caused by driver error.