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Common Roadside Emergencies and How to Avoid Them

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No matter how good of a driver you are, there's no guarantee you will never face a roadside emergency while you're driving. To stay safe while on the road, it's best to have an idea about the most common road emergencies you might encounter, what to do to avoid them, and how to handle them when they happen. In such situations, what happens next usually depends on your initial reaction.

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9 Common RoadsideEmergencies

Here's a list of the road emergencies you must always be prepared for:

flat tire

Flat Tire or Tire Blowout

It doesn't take an automotive expert to know that a flat or blown tire can ruin your trip. Fortunately, inspecting your tires regularly can help you avoid getting stuck on the road due to these problems. Check out our tire inspection guide for more information on how to check your tire's tread and pressure.

Although tire inspection can reduce the risk of a blown or flat tire, these issues can still happen.

For example, road hazards can puncture your tires and weaken them. You might hear a loud noise once one of your tires bursts, which is one of the reasons why some drivers panic when their tire suddenly blows in the middle of the freeway.

What should you do if your tire suddenly blows out?

  • Stay calm and don't panic.
  • Keep your focus on the road because your vehicle will tend to steer to one side.
  • Push the accelerator pedal briefly and drive straight ahead to regain your focus.
  • Let your car slow down.
  • Pull onto the shoulder and park your car in a safe spot.
  • Change your blown tire with your spare.
  • Call for roadside assistance if you don't have a spare tire or if you think you're dealing with more than just a blown tire.
jammed stucked-accelerator

Jammed or Stuck Accelerator

Yes, it's possible for your vehicle's accelerator to get jammed or stuck. In fact, Toyota recalled around 4 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2009 because of an accelerator or throttle problem. The issue was caused by something as simple as floor mats.

Make sure your accelerator pedal isn't stuck in the driver-side floor mat before driving. Get a new floor mat if you think it's starting to curl up near the pedal.

But what if the throttle gets jammed on its own?

Experts recommend applying the brakes and shifting the vehicle to neutral to slow down your vehicle. Remember to turn on your emergency flashers to warn other drivers.

Do not turn off your engine immediately because it can compromise your steering function and make you lose control of your vehicle. Contact the emergency road service once you're safely parked.

collision

Collision

The best way to avoid collisions is to practice safe driving. However, even if you drive safely, you will never have full control over your surroundings while you're on the road.

For example, other drivers near you can lose control over their vehicle and head straight in your direction. A big truck can spill its cargo and put you in a risky situation.

Although you don't have full control of what happens next, you must stay calm so that you can think and react accordingly.

According to Wisconsin's Motorist Handbook, it's important to maintain a good grip of your steering wheel. Determine whether turning the wheel will help you avoid the collision. If you have to change lanes, make sure that you're ready to keep the vehicle in control.

There have been cases where drivers steer away from an imminent collision only to get into another, so make sure you're aware of your surroundings. Once the dust has settled, make sure you know what you should do in case you get involved in a car accident.

accidents involve wildlife

Accidents Involving Wildlife

Aside from the danger of getting hit by other vehicles on the road, there's also the risk of hitting a deer or other forms of wildlife.

Roughly 1.5 million deer-related accidents take place every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). If you're driving close to areas that are home to various wildlife, it's a good idea to learn how to prevent deer-vehicle collisions.

brake failure

Brake Failure

Bad brakes are among the most common causes of road accidents worldwide. So make sure you replace any faulty brake components right away.

Check your friction brakes, brake lights, and parking brake from time to time. Don't forget to check your brake fluid and brake lines because these parts have a huge impact on brake power. You can review our brake maintenance checklist to learn how to inspect and maintain your vehicle brakes.

What should you do when your brakes fail while driving?

Turn on your emergency flashers, then press the brakes again. Most modern vehicles have dual brake systems, which can give you partial braking power once the backup takes over.

Experts also advise pumping your brakes as fast as you can. This can generate enough pressure to get the brakes working again and stop your vehicle.

If nothing happens, apply your parking brake as hard as you can to slow down your ride immediately. Use your horn to alert other drivers on the road.

Once your ride coasts to a stop, pull over and shut down your engine. Shift the transmission to park and call for help. Do not attempt to drive your vehicle again unless it has already been diagnosed and fixed by a professional.

Contact the emergency road service once you're safely parked.

engine stalling

Engine Stalling

If you've been driving for a long time, stalling isn't a new thing to you. Many engine issues can cause this symptom. You can read this article to know the possible reasons why your vehicle suddenly stalls.

To avoid engine stalling, make sure to follow your vehicle's maintenance schedule and replace any bad engine component right away. Get your vehicle off the road once it stalls, and have it checked right away to avoid accidents in the future.

vehicle on fire

Vehicle on Fire

If you smell something unusual or see smoke coming out of your engine, pull over immediately and turn off the ignition.

As with any fire emergency, you have to get to a safe distance from your vehicle. Call the fire department to report the situation. If you have a fire extinguisher, you can use it to put out small fires.

Vehicle fires can be extremely dangerous, so don't attempt to do anything unless you're sure you can do it correctly.

headlight failure

Headlight Failure

Although a malfunctioning headlight doesn't seem to be that much of an emergency during the day, it can make it extremely dangerous to drive at night.

To avoid headlight failure, make sure your automotive lights are in their prime condition at all times. Diagnose your headlights and replace them immediately at the first sign of trouble.

But what if it's already too late to prevent it, and you're already stuck on the road during the night?

Experts recommend using other lights, like your hazard or directioning signals, until you can safely pull over or get your vehicle to safety. Call for road service or have your vehicle towed immediately.

shuttered windshield

Shattered Windshield

This can happen if you're always driving through rough road conditions and terrains. Stones and debris from other vehicles can damage or crack your windshield.

Pull over the side of the road immediately once your windshield breaks. Find something like a blanket or a cloth to cover up vent openings to prevent the glass from falling in the vents.

We then strongly suggest calling a tow service so you can take your ride to an auto repair shop.

flat tire
jammed stucked-accelerator
collision
accidents involve wildlife
brake failure
engine stalling
vehicle on fire
headlight failure
shuttered windshield
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of Road Accidents

Aside from the road emergencies mentioned above, there are a lot of other reasons why you could get involved in a road accident. Here are some of them:

distracted driving
drunk driving
speeding
extreme weather
distracted driving

Distracted Driving

According to data from the NHTSA, about nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured daily in incidents related to distracted driving.

Anything that can take your attention away from driving is a distraction, from eating and texting to talking with someone in your car or on the phone.

Don't multitask while you're on the road to avoid getting involved in accidents. You should always attend to texts and calls before or after your trip. It's a good idea to part on a pit stop or the side of the road first before answering the call.

drunk driving

Drunk Driving

Driving while you're intoxicated with drugs and/or alcohol is extremely dangerous. These substances can lead to loss of concentration and delayed reflexes, which can increase the risk of getting involved in a crash.

According to data, one in every three fatal road crashes in the US is caused by alcohol-impaired driving. Check out this blog about drunk driving in the US for more information.

speeding

Speeding

We live in a fast-paced world, so it's no surprise that vehicle speeding is one of the leading causes of accidents in the country. In 2009, speeding killed about 9,748 people in the US.

Speeding endangers not only your life but also the lives of other people on the road. So follow the road's speed limits to avoid accidents or minimize damage in case of a collision.

You can check out this NHTSA tool kit and guide on how to avoid speeding.

extreme weather

Extreme Weather Conditions

Bad weather like snow and rain can cause low-visibility conditions that can put you and your passengers' safety at risk while on the road.

Fog lights can improve visibility during fog or snow, but it's still highly recommended that you stay put or wait for the weather to get better if the trip isn't an emergency. If you can't avoid traveling during bad weather, make sure to buckle up and drive slowly.

Other Safety Tips from the Experts

slippery surfaces background

How to prevent skidding on slippery surfaces

  • 1

    Drive slowly and watch your distance from other vehicles.

  • 2

    Slow down when approaching curves or intersections.

  • 3

    Avoid fast turns and quick stops.

  • 4

    Shift to low gear when going down a steep hill.

railroad tracks background

What to do when your vehicle gets stuck on railroad tracks

If the warning lights are flashing and/or the train is approaching:

  • 1

    Exit your vehicle immediately.

  • 2

    Run at a 45-degree angle away from the tracks in the direction that the train is coming.

  • 3

    Dial 9-1-1.


If the warning lights are not flashing and you do not see a train approaching:

  • 1

    Exit your vehicle.

  • 2

    Dial the emergency notification system (ENS) number once you’re in a safe spot. The number is usually located on the railroad crossing posts or metal control box near the tracks.

  • 3

    Provide the location, crossing number (if posted), and the road or highway that intersects the tracks.

  • 4

    Make sure to alert them that a vehicle is stuck on the tracks.

  • 5

    After you call ENS, call 9-1-1.

As much as you want your trips to be safe, there will always be unforeseen circumstances that are beyond your control. Fortunately, keeping your focus on the road and following safe driving practices can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. Stay calm and drive safe!

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