Table of Contents


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Driving in Emergency Situations

Road Emergencies

Driving on the roads of Nevada 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:

Soft Shoulders - Driving on the soft shoulder, aside from being illegal, is highly dangerous because it can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Some shoulders are paved to allow for optimum vehicle traction. However, soft shoulders are usually just packed dirt, which is unstable, so use them only in an emergency situation. Don't drive on the soft shoulder on highways except in emergency situations only.

An image of a pot hole

Pot holes may cause the vehicle to lose traction with the road surface.

Bad Pavement - Bad pavement is a major contributing factor to many traffic collisions. Pot holes or bumps may cause the vehicle to lose traction with the road surface, while other factors make it difficult to simply steer the vehicle altogether. It is vital as a defensive driver to be aware of all road conditions that may affect your safe use of the highway.

Before you begin a trip, learn about the road conditions of areas where you intend to travel. You can usually get updated information from local law enforcement or city agencies. Preparation for bad pavement or the choice to take an alternative route can help reduce the potential for collisions. When driving on the freeway, be prepared to steer around blocked roadways or obstructions to the roadway. Try and steer around any stalled cars as well, and warn other drivers behind by utilizing brake and hazard lights.

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

  • Keep going straight ahead while you continue to slow down.
  • If the drop-off is small (up to a few inches), turn your steering wheel up to about a quarter of the way to the left until the front right tire is in contact with the edge. Now turn the steering wheel to go straight ahead. You should be able to get back on the road.
  • If the drop-off is several inches, you may have more difficulty recovering. Your front right tire may rub against the edge of the pavement when you steer to the left. If that occurs, straighten out and try again. Do not steer more sharply to the left because your car may jump back onto the road and into another vehicle!
An image of a flood

Drivers who go around roadblocks placed near flooded roadways get into trouble.

Stuck in Deep Water - Sometimes the water rises too fast for you to get out. In other cases, you may run into deep water unexpectedly. 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 to 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.

The best way to avoid getting stuck in deep water is to avoid flooded roads. Road workers often will place roadblocks around flooded roadways to keep drivers out of trouble. As discussed previously, you need to look for an alternate route if you see any of these roadblocks. Drivers who go around the barriers often find themselves requiring assistance. Be smart and drive elsewhere.

An image of a driver on the wrong side of the street

React quickly to a wrong-way driver to avoid a collision.

Oncoming Car / Wrong Side of the Road - The goal in the event another car is coming towards you from the wrong 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 that will help you avoid the more dangerous head-on collision. In order to minimize the chance of a crash, 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.

Handling a Skid

When a vehicle's tires lose contact with the road, it often results in a skid, which leads to loss of vehicle control. The most common causes of skids include sudden acceleration, abrupt braking, and excessive or jerky steering. When speed is added to the mix, it only makes things worse.

What Causes Skids?

An image of a skid on the road

Skids often leave tire marks in their wake.

Skids can be caused by several factors which include

Reduced Traction - When there is a reduction in traction, or ability to stick to the road, the car's tires lose their grip on the surface of the road. Your car slides around and you lose steering control. A road that is wet and slippery has reduced traction.

Quick Change of Speed - Sometimes when roads are wet and slippery, a quick change of speed or dramatic application of your brakes can cause your car to skid. Your car is moving too rapidly, and the tires lose traction due to an attempt to alter such a great amount of momentum and force.

Quick Change of Direction - When your car is traveling in one direction at a high speed, changing its direction too quickly can cause the car to skid. The momentum of your car is very strong, and its inertia keeps the vehicle moving in the same direction. The vehicle cannot alter these forces successfully, and the tires lose traction on the road.

Types of Skids

An image of a 'Slippery When Wet' sign

Beware of a road that is wet as it may be slippery.

There are three common types of skids: front-wheel, drive-wheel (or rear-wheel), and four-wheel. Of these three, the most commonly experienced is the rear-wheel skid. The techniques needed to get out of most skids are basically the same: keep your speed under control and make all moves gradually. Avoid braking unless it is absolutely necessary; slow down instead by easing off the gas pedal. Some important differences are noted below:

Front-Wheel Skid - A front-wheel skid creates the impression that you have under-steered. This type of skid can be caused by applying excessive steering force. The only way to stop a front-wheel skid is to slow down as quickly as possible. Ease your foot off the gas and slowly return the steering wheel towards center. It is easier to regain control when you are going straight ahead than if you are turning.

Rear-Wheel Skid - In a rear-wheel skid, the back of your car swings out, or fishtails, giving you the impression that you have over-steered. This can occur when you go too fast into a turn. Gradually take your foot off the gas, step on the clutch (for a manual transmission), and steer in the direction you want to go.

The common expression "turn in the direction of the skid" means turn toward the direction of your rear end, which will be, in effect, your intended forward direction. Be careful not to overcorrect because that may send your car spinning completely out of control. Remember, when your rear end skids out left, turn your steering wheel to the left.

Four-Wheel Skid - If all four wheels have locked up, your car continues moving forward in the direction it was traveling, resulting in a four-wheel skid. Slamming on your brakes can lead to this type of skid, though this is rare with vehicles that are equipped with anti-lock brakes. This type of skid can also occur if you do not handle a front-wheel or rear-wheel skid correctly. The best way to handle a four-wheel skid is to pump your brakes, or if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes (ABS), apply gradual but firm pressure.

Things to remember with skids...

  • Never slam on the brake when involved in any type of skid. Ease off the accelerator and steer to straighten the car while slowing down gradually.
  • Avoid turning or swerving suddenly.
  • Don't oversteer.
  • Keep the vehicle clutch engaged and gradually remove your foot from the accelerator.
  • 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.

Handling Vehicular Emergencies

Regular maintenance of your vehicle will help prevent most vehicle breakdowns. However, even a well-maintained vehicle can run into the occasional problem, so you need to be able to handle mechanical emergencies quickly. Following are some common emergency driving situations and how to respond:

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.

Steering Wheel Locks - You should never adjust or move the key ignition 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 to avoid losing control.

Accelerator Sticks - A stuck accelerator is usually not a major problem. You can usually solve this by stepping repeatedly on the gas pedal. If the car continues to increase in speed, however, either step on the clutch to disengage the gears (with a manual transmission) 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 the loss of the power steering.

Headlight Failure - If your headlights fail, you must take immediate action. It is dangerous to drive in darkness without the lights. Following are some things you can do in case your headlights fail:

  • 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.
An image of a car with its hood up

Pull off the road as soon as possible if your hood flies open.

Hood Latch Failure - If the hood latch fails and the hood opens while you are driving, don't panic! Take the following actions:

  • Slow down your vehicle as much as possible without causing the car behind you to crash into you.
  • Stick 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.

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 deflective muffler or exhaust system.

NOTE: Never turn off the vehicle in an attempt to stop. This action will cause other car functions, such as steering, to also fail.

Dealing With Brake Failure

Many factors can cause brake failure. Two of the most common are wet brakes and brake overheating. Wet brakes typically result from driving through puddles or standing water, while brake overheating can be caused by prolonged use or hard driving. In passenger vehicles, there are two main braking systems: a hydraulic four-wheel brake system and a mechanically operated rear wheel parking brake. Always keep all brakes and brake components maintained in good condition. Properly maintained brakes are not only required by law, but are essential for the safe operation of the motor vehicle. This means you need to check out the condition of your vehicle's brakes periodically to ensure that they function properly.

An image of a foot over the brake

Pumping the brakes is a good first step to deal with brake failure.

Perhaps the worst time for your brakes to fail is when you are heading downhill, which can cause your vehicle to gain momentum and speed. If total brake failure occurs, there are several corrective actions you can initiate. Procedures to follow include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An image of a parking brake

    If using the parking brake to slow down, pull at it gradually so the wheels do not lock up.

  • Apply Parking Brake - Pull at the parking brake gradually, avoiding dramatic movements. Your goal is to slow down the vehicle by any means and not lock up your wheels, as that may only cause more problems. Drastic tugging at the brake may cause loss of vehicle control and overturning.
  • 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.
  • Sideswipe Objects (attempting to reduce speed) - Sideswiping involves slowing down the vehicle by deflecting it off other objects on the road. Never hit any object hit head-on, and avoid hitting objects like curbs because they may cause the car to overturn. Guard rails and parked cars would be good objects to sideswipe because they may help to gradually slow down the vehicle.
  • Shift into Reverse - If all else fails, try shifting into reverse. This action will grind all the gears of the transmission together and will also slow down the vehicle. Yes, the transmission will be destroyed, but at least you may escape with your life.

Handling Tire Problems

Tire Failure

An image of a tire blow out

The most common cause of tire failure is improper inflation.

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. A blowout to the tire occurs suddenly, while a flat may occur slowly. You can normally feel a tire give way as you hold the steering wheel, and you may also hear it or feel a part of your vehicle dip. So what causes tire failure? The most common cause is an improperly inflated tire. Underinflated tires undermine your control of the vehicle, and overinflated tires are susceptible to road hazards such as potholes.

When a tire fails, most people react by slamming down on the brakes. However, this will only cause more damage. Instead, you should hold the steering wheel firmly and steer straight ahead to keep the vehicle under control. Slow down by gradually taking your foot off the gas pedal and pull off the road to an area where it is safe. If you need to swerve into an object, do so into something that will "give," reducing the chance of injury.

Your vehicle will pull in the direction of the failed tire. If the left front tire fails, the car will pull to the left; if it is the right tire, the car will pull to the right. If a rear tire fails, your car may fishtail (swerve in the rear, often unpredictably). Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel so you can stay in control. Signal if you must change lanes, and be aware of traffic as you pull over. Avoid any sudden moves to prevent further damage. Once you are completely off the road, press lightly on the brakes until you stop and activate your hazard lights. Change the tire on a flat, even surface, and only when doing so does not put you in danger.

An image of a stuck tire

Getting stuck in mud does not have to be a bad experience.

Getting stuck in snow or mud does not have to be a bad experience! First try easing forward, applying gentle pressure on the gas. If this does not work, try clearing out the path by shoveling aside some snow or mud in front of and behind the tires, without digging too deeply. Again try easing out. Place traction mats, sand, gravel, or any other abrasive material around the tires. Keep people away from the tires and your vehicle while you do this so they don't get hit by any objects that come flying out.

Another technique you can try to free your vehicle is to rock out so you can start driving again. Before you do this, check your owner's manual to make sure this action will not damage your vehicle. The owner's manual should also have instructions for rocking if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes. Be careful not to overexert yourself in trying to free your vehicle - you may often be better off seeking assistance.

To rock your vehicle out, gently rock back and forth in drive and reverse, and make sure to keep tire spinning at a minimum. With some luck, you should be able to get free. Never go beyond 35 mph on your speedometer, or your tires will dig down deeper. If a drive wheel is off the ground, do not spin your tires at all. Spinning tires will heat up, which may cause them to explode and injure someone. Call for a tow truck if you cannot rock out.

Dealing With Engine Trouble

An image of a car engine

The engine is an essential part of the vehicle.

The engine is an essential part of the vehicle. Without it, you will not be able to drive anywhere. If you know there are problems, take your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible. Following are some of the more common problems you may encounter with your engine and what you can do.

Overheating - Your engine may overheat due to several factors. These include:

  • Not enough coolant / anti-freeze.
  • Very hot weather with your air conditioning running.
  • A clogged radiator.
  • A broken fan or water belt.

Engine Smoke - If you see smoke coming from your hood or engine or your temperature gauge on the panel shows trouble, you should attempt to do the following:

An image of a car engine

If smoke comes out of your engine compartment, pullover immediately.

  1. Turn off your air conditioning.
  2. Turn off the radio and other accessories in the car.
  3. Pull off the road and open the hood of the car. This will let your engine cool down.
  4. Call a mechanic or the Automobile Club (AAA), if you are a member, for help. Turning on your heater will help to draw some of the heat away from the engine to allow some further driving if you cannot pull off the road. If you choose to check the engine yourself, wait at least a few minutes for it to cool down and then look for a broken belt or hose, or check to see if your engine is low on fluids.

Engine Fire - Most engine fires are caused by either an electrical or fuel problem which can create smoke from the hood of the vehicle. Although not a frequent occurrence, these situations must be handled quickly and properly to limit damage to property or injury to the driver or passenger. Some steps to follow when you see smoke or fire include:

An image of a car on fire

An engine fire must be handled quickly and properly to limit damage or injury.

  1. Get your car off the road and turn off the engine.
  2. Have everyone move away from the car.
  3. Try to put out the fire if you have a fire extinguisher in your car (if it is a small fire or has just started and is manageable). Never use water when trying to put out an engine fire.

NOTE: The best option is to move far away from the car and call the police or fire department for help. If you don't have the proper equipment, or if the fire is already out of control, get away from the vehicle.

DO NOT OPEN THE HOOD BECAUSE THIS WILL CAUSE THE FIRE TO SPREAD.

Wet Engine - If your engine gets wet, it can cause the vehicle to stall. When driving through water, some water may get into the electrical system, causing a short. If this happens, pull off the road and turn off the car. The heat from the engine should help to get rid of the moisture. Keep trying to start the car after giving it some time to dry. Expose the engine to sunshine if possible to expedite the process.

An image of a fan belt

A problem with the fan belt will most likely cause the vehicle to overheat.

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.

What to do if Your Car Stalls or Breaks Down

Sometimes your car's engine will have difficulty running or simply stop working. The actions you should take when your car stalls will vary according to time and location, among other factors. You want other drivers to know that your vehicle is disabled and requires road service or a tow. If your car stalls or breaks down, you should:

An image of a car broken down

Try to get your car off the road if it stalls.

  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 a collision waiting to happen. NOTE: The purpose of emergency flashers is to alert other drivers that an emergency situation or collision is ahead. If the emergency flashers do not work, put on the vehicle's turn signals instead.
  2. Remain in the car buckled up and lock the doors. Walking aimlessly on the side of the road looking for assistance is unwise and unsafe. Sitting in the locked vehicle and wearing your seat belt while waiting for law enforcement is the most prudent move. Law enforcement is always alert to disabled vehicles. NOTE: When your 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).

Freeway Emergencies

Emergencies on the freeway occur more often than you may think. They can range from the sudden appearance of an object in your lane to a ten-car pile up or an unexpected traffic jam. When these emergencies arise, you normally have two options: stop or steer around. If you are unable to drive over a hazard, quickly slow down. Check your mirrors and your blind spot to see if there is an open lane and steer around the hazard. If it is impossible to steer around the hazard, you will have to stop. The first thing you should do is tap your brakes, which will warn other drivers behind you. Then apply your brakes firmly and try to leave a good amount of space between your vehicle and the hazard to decrease the possibility of the car behind rear-ending you. When you have come to a stop, turn on your emergency flashers to warn other drivers of the hazard.

An image of a car broken down on the freeway

The shoulder is a good place to stop if your vehicle breaks down on the freeway.

Breakdowns - If a breakdown occurs on the freeway, the first thing you want to do is control your vehicle and pick the safest path to the shoulder. While changing lanes, follow the same rules as before. Be sure to signal and move over just one lane at a time. When you get to the shoulder, be sure to pull as far off the freeway as possible, and park parallel to the roadway. When you are safely off the freeway, turn your hazard lights on, and if you have flares or warning devices, place them behind the vehicle on the shoulder at distances of 300 feet and 500 feet.

Stalling on Railroad Tracks

While you don't want your vehicle to stall anywhere it can interfere with traffic, you certainly do not want it to stall on railroad tracks. It can take a train traveling at 55 mph at least one mile to stop after the emergency brakes are applied, even if the engineer sees you. If your vehicle stalls on railroad tracks, what you need to do depends on whether a train is approaching the crossing.

If a train is approaching:

An image of a railroad crossing

Take immediate action if your vehicle stalls on railroad tracks.

  1. Unfasten your seat belt and have everyone immediately get out of your vehicle and off the tracks.
  2. Run at a 45-degree angle away from the tracks and towards the oncoming train (if you run in the direction the train is going, you may be hit by debris when the train collides with your vehicle).

If NO train is approaching:

  1. Roll down your windows and listen for any oncoming train.
  2. Try restarting your vehicle.
  3. If that does not work, put your vehicle in neutral and push it off the tracks.
  4. If you can't move your vehicle, have everyone get out and off the tracks and call the police.

Remember: Do not ever try to beat a train! If you lose, you have no second chance!

Types of Collisions

A collision can occur just about anywhere. It can involve one vehicle or several vehicles, as well as people and non-vehicle objects. Following are some types of collisions, along with some safety tips to help you avoid or minimize the severity of these crashes.

Rear-End Collisions

An image of a rear-end collision

Rear-end collisions are the most common type of vehicle crash.

When one vehicle strikes another from behind, the result is a rear-end collision. This is the most common type of collision and is often the result of tailgating or other dangerous driving behaviors that are deliberate, though they can also result from driver negligence. The most frequent type of injury from rear-end collisions is the whiplash injury, which can be quite painful.

Safety Tips - An important point to remember is that the law holds the driver in the rear responsible in a rear-end collision. Other things to consider:

  • Remember to signal early for all turns, stops and lane changes, and change lanes if you are being followed too closely.
  • Maintain a three-second following distance, increasing it as conditions warrant.
  • If a rear-end collision is inevitable, try moving forward to minimize the impact. If that will put you in the path of cross traffic, press your brake pedal instead and allow your vehicle to absorb the impact (this should only be done in low-speed environments). Be sure to keep the steering wheel turned straight ahead so you are not pushed into oncoming traffic.

Head-On Collisions

An image of a head-on collision

A head-on collision is violent and often deadly.

A head-on collision is not very common, but it is very dangerous. This occurs most often when two vehicles traveling in opposite directions meet head-on. The head-on crash is violent and occurs suddenly, usually with deadly results as the vehicles involved stop abruptly when they crash into one another. Death is a near certainty when the vehicles are traveling at high rates of speed and occupants fail to wear their seat belts. Unrestrained occupants are thrown forward into the hard interior components of the vehicle such as the dashboard or windshield, and sometimes they are thrown out. It is also common for one or both cars to go into an uncontrolled spin, which may cause the occupants to be thrown out of the vehicle and possibly be run over or thrown into a curb or fixed object.

Safety Tips

  • Always keep to the right side of the road.
  • Do not enter the left lane of a two-lane highway to pass unless it is both legal and you are sure the way ahead is clear. Remember that you may cross the yellow line only if it is broken on the right side.
  • Maintain the proper seating position and keep a safe distance between your upper body and the steering wheel.
  • If you see a car coming toward you on your side of the road, alert the other driver and pull as far to the right as possible.

Side Collisions

Angle/Broadside Collisions

An image of a broadside collision

A broadside often occurs when a driver runs a red light at an intersection.

The worst type of collision at intersections is quite possibly the broadside collision (or simply "side collision"), which occurs when one vehicle crashes head-on into the side of another at a right angle. This often occurs when a driver runs a red light or turns left without yielding the right-of-way to a vehicle proceeding straight ahead. Because the sides of a vehicle are less reinforced than the front or rear end, a side collision can be more dangerous to occupants than a head-on collision at the same speed.

Safety Tips

  • Always yield the right-of-way when required.
  • When the signal turns green or you are given the right-of-way, make sure traffic in the cross street has stopped before proceeding.
  • If you are about to be hit, maintain your grip on the steering wheel. This will allow two things: keep you from being thrown around inside your car, and help you maintain control.

Sideswipe Collisions

An image of a sideswipe

A sideswipe is not normally serious, although the vehicles involved will still be damaged.

A sideswipe is a "glancing blow" that often occurs when a driver fails to signal, drives too close to the center line, changes lanes too quickly, or fails to pay attention while attempting to pass or change lanes. It can occur between two vehicles traveling in either the same or opposite directions. These types of crashes are normally not serious, although the vehicles will still be damaged.

Safety Tips

  • Change lanes only if the dividing line is broken.
  • Stay to the right of the center line.
  • Stay in the center of your lane and away from the dividing lines.
  • Always signal ahead if you are changing lanes.
  • Check your blind spots.

Other Types of Collisions

Rollover Collisions

An image of a rollover

SUVs have a nasty tendency to overturn due to their higher center of gravity.

A rollover crash occurs when a vehicle overturns, often because it turned too sharply while traveling at high speeds. It is sometimes preceded by a skid. A rollover can also be caused when a vehicle's tires hit low-lying objects such as curbs. This type of collision is violent and often more deadly than other types of collisions, especially if occupants fail to secure their seat belts. Head injuries often occur when occupants are ejected or the roof collapses. Rollovers are typically single-vehicle collisions, but they also may involve other vehicles.

Although any vehicle can overturn, SUVs have a nasty tendency to experience this type of crash due to their higher center of gravity. Pickup trucks and minivans also are more likely than regular passenger cars to overturn for the same reason. NHTSA requires vehicles to have properly reinforced roofs, but heavier vehicles like SUVs and other light trucks (pickups and vans) were exempt. As a result, these vehicles have poor roof support, which is bad when they roll over. According to NHTSA, 35% of all fatal rollover crashes were in SUVs. Compare that to 28% for pickup trucks and just 17% for vans and 17% for passenger cars. That should change when NHTSA starts to require better roof support for SUVs.

Safety Tips

  • Avoid sudden changes of direction.
  • Avoid excessive steering.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • If the road is slippery, use extra caution, slow down, and give yourself extra time.
  • Properly maintain your tires.
  • Load your vehicle properly. Don't overload the roof rack if your vehicle has one.

Multiple-Vehicle Collisions

Technically a large number of traffic crashes do involve more than one vehicle, but here we are talking about crashes of a grander scale, those involving several vehicles. Sometimes called pile-ups, multiple-vehicle collisions are most likely to occur when visibility is terrible, such as in fog. These crashes are deadly when they occur on freeways, interstates and other high-speed roads where drivers follow too close behind other vehicles. When one vehicle crashes into another, those following behind do not have enough time to avoid the crash and thus get involved themselves, setting off a chain reaction leading to more crashes.

What makes a multiple-vehicle collision so deadly is the aftermath, and not necessarily the additional crashes that occur when other vehicles become involved. People often get trapped in fires that spread quickly, while others simply get out and expose themselves to danger from traffic. The worst place to have a pile-up is inside the tunnel, where escape and quick rescues are almost impossible. The heat from any fires that break out can become so intense that the tunnel collapses.

Safety Tips

  • Always maintain a safe following distance of three seconds or more, especially on the freeway.
  • Do not drive alongside other vehicles as this limits your escape options in an emergency. You also need a space cushion on the sides.
  • Signal in advance and check your blind spots before you change lanes.

Fixed Object Collisions

An image of a fixed object collision

Trees are often at the receiving end of a fixed object collision.

Many single-vehicle collisions occur when a car crashes into a fixed object such as a tree, utility pole, and even a house. These are less common than other types of collisions as they often occur due to vehicle failure, distractions or driver neglect. However, they are still very dangerous. When the vehicle crashes into a fixed object, it usually stops suddenly or runs into debris that enters the passenger compartment.

Safety Tips

  • Pay attention to the road!
  • Have your brakes serviced and checked regularly.
  • Check tire pressure at least once a week. Check the tread for even wear. Rotate tires as recommended.
  • Remember that you don't pump anti-lock brakes; press down firmly on them instead.
  • If you experience vehicle trouble, activate your turn signals or hazard lights to alert other drivers and pull off the roadway when it is safe. Do not jump out of your car into traffic! Use flares or reflectors if necessary and you can place them safely.