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January 09, 2013
Don't panic! Just train your drivers to respond to driving emergencies

Think fast! You're traveling at 70 miles per hour on a busy highway, and you just blew a tire! Or perhaps there's a light drizzle, and your car hit an unexpected slick spot and started to fishtail. Or maybe you put your foot on the brakes … and nothing happened.

Preparedness can mean the difference between life and death in these situations, and training can ensure that your workers are prepared.

Background on driving emergencies

Who should be trained? Workers who operate motor vehicles on public roads as part of their jobs should know what to do when something goes wrong. Although it's not required, you can enhance the safety of all of your commuting workers by providing driver safety training.

Why train workers to respond to driving emergencies? Traffic accidents are the leading cause of work-related deaths. Taking steps to make your workers safer drivers can help keep your employees out of that statistic.

Practice tip

Remind workers that they do not need to pump the brakes to avoid locking up their wheels in cars equipped with ABS; instead, they should apply steady pressure to the brake.

Defensive driving: The basics

Instructions to Trainer: It's always best to practice a skill you might need, so try to arrange for drivers to practice these maneuvers in an empty parking lot or other safe space.

Have you ever had a blown tire? Gone into a skid on a slick roadway? Had your steering fail? What did you do? Would you know how to react to these driving emergencies? Today we're going to talk about how to react safely when common driving emergencies arise.

Here's what to do when:

You blow a tire. If your steering wheel begins to vibrate and your vehicle pulls strongly to one side, you may have blown a front tire. If a rear corner of your vehicle drops, and your vehicle starts to swing back and forth, you may have blown a rear tire. In either case:

  • Hang on. Don't let go of the steering wheel.

  • Don't brake. Hard braking with a blown tire can send your car out of control.

  • Ease off the gas. Coast until you have control of the car.

  • Turn on your hazard lights. Warn the drivers around you.

  • Steer smoothly. Don't jerk the wheel or turn sharply as you guide your car to the side of the road.

  • Brake gently. Once you have control of the car, you may brake gently to bring it to a stop.

Your car skids or hydroplanes.

Maybe you took that turn just a little too fast. Maybe the slick road conditions took you by surprise. Maybe you were planning to replace worn tires next week. Whatever the cause, your car is now moving sideways instead of forward. Here's what to do:

  • Make no sudden moves. Don't brake hard or jerk the wheel.

  • Ease off the gas. If you're hydroplaning, you'll start to feel contact with the road again as you slow.

  • Steer gently. Steer the car's nose gently in the direction you'd like to go. Make adjustments—gently—as needed, until the car moves in a straight line.

Your steering fails. If you're moving the steering wheel, but nothing's happening, here's what you should do:

  • Don't brake. The car's momentum should continue to carry it forward, but sudden changes in speed could send it spinning. Stay off the brake if you can.

  • Ease off the gas. Again, you should try to avoid sudden changes in speed.

  • Turn on your hazard lights. It's important that your car be as visible as possible.

  • Coast to a stop. You can use your brakes gently once the car slows on its own.

Your brakes fail. If you step on your brakes and nothing happens, here's what you can do to stop safely:

  • Downshift. Unlike blown tires, skids, or failed steering, control of the car's direction is not an issue; it is safe to downshift so the engine will slow the car.

  • Move to the right. Do your best to move to the side of the road. Remember to signal as needed.

  • Keep trying your brakes. The brake failure may be temporary, so keep your foot on the brake. If you have an antilock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure. If you don't have ABS, pump your brakes.

  • Shift into neutral and apply your emergency brake. Once you have moved to the right, shift into neutral and apply your emergency brake. This may not completely stop your car, but it should help slow the car down.

  • Rub the curb. If you can run your vehicle along a curb or something else alongside the road, you can use friction to slow or stop your car.


It can be very dangerous when something goes wrong with your vehicle. By being prepared for emergencies, you can decrease your chances of being injured.

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