January - Breakdowns - Preventing Roadside Emergencies
Breakdowns - Preventing Roadside Emergencies
Each year, approximately 3,000 people die in car accidents on the shoulder or median of the road. Sometimes, these fatal scenarios begin with a simple breakdown that forces the vehicle off the roadway. Knowing how to prevent breakdowns and how to protect yourself and your passengers when a breakdown occurs can save your life.
How can you tell when something is wrong with your car?
- Watch the instrument gauges for the engine temperature, fuel and oil levels and other important information. Familiarize yourself with all the gauges through the Owner's Manual. Review what is considered "normal" and what is an "emergency".
- If your car suddenly starts pulling from one side to the other or you feel a rumbling sound, carefully pull off the roadway; you may have a low tire or a flat.
- Keep alert. Your sense of smell, touch, sight or hearing may be the first hint that there's a problem. Pay attention while you're driving.
An odd odor, unusual vibration, the sight of smoke or an unusual sound can signal trouble.
If there's something wrong with my vehicle, what should I do?
- It solely depends upon the nature of the problem. If the change in operation affects the steering, acceleration or braking and will need immediate attention, pull safely off the road onto a flat shoulder as far as possible.
- If the problem is minor and doesn't affect the performance or safety of you, your passenger(s) or other vehicles, continue on to the closest service station.
- If it is necessary to get off the road, reduce the distractions inside the car like the radio, talking passengers. Ask them to remain quiet and look for the safest off-road conditions to pull off.
Use your emergency flashers so that other vehicles will know that you need to get off the road. Use extreme caution when pulling off the road. Check for traffic before leaving the inside of your vehicle. Remain extra cautious when you are on the shoulder to avoid getting hit by traffic.
If I have a flat tire?
- Don't panic! Grip the steering firmly and slowly.
- Pull off the road and turn on your emergency flashers.
- If you don't have a CB or cell phone, make a sign and place it in the window that says, "Call Police."
- Attach a bright handkerchief or piece of clothing to the radio antenna or door handle to signal for help. When you exit the car, do so on the passenger side, away from the highway, if possible.
- Stay in your car, unless there is eminent danger, like smoke or ventilation problems or maybe the chance of an electrical fire. While in your car, keep your seat belt fastened in case you are struck by another car.
- If a breakdown occurs in extreme hot weather, crack your windows and drink plenty of water. Always keep extra bottles of water with you.
If a stranger approaches?
- Be on guard! Don't open the doors or windows. If the person looks suspicious or behaves suspiciously. Tell them that the police are on the way.
- If the person offers you a phone or the use of their CB radio, don't accept. Write the number you need to call down on the paper and show it to them through the window. If you do feel confident in that person, crack the window slightly and give them the number to call or send for help.
Actually, using these hints and common sense can make a road hazard less stressful.
Make it home without a wreck. Do a pretrip safety check.
Excerpts: Shell Oil -Safe Driving
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.