Mac Demere, contributor at Popular Mechanics, an online platform for media, and teacher at an advanced driving school, preps the next generation of motorists for possible emergencies. He shares the most important things to remember as newly licensed drivers, which may not have been taught during driver’s education.
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1. Use brakes
Oftentimes, drivers aren’t comfortable with pushing the cars to its limits, For instance, drivers would prefer to run into something rather than simply pressing on the brakes completely. Even if the brakes are stepped on, many don’t realize that obstacles are also easily avoidable. People must understand the full capabilities of the car they’re driving, including the ABS or antilock braking systems. When faced with an unexpected obstacle, remember to “stomp, stay, and steer.” That means stomp hard on the pedal. Then keep your foot on the pedal, press hard, and ignore the scary sounds made by the car or pulsations from the pedal, as the car is not actually being “hurt.” Finally, steer around the obstacle as ABS allows turning while braking. This takes racecar-driver years to master, as racecars often don’t have ABS. While steering, the car must be centered after avoiding the obstacle, or else the vehicle may dart into oncoming traffic or a ditch.
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2. Remain calm
A common cause of highway fatalities are drivers jerking the car back toward their lane after partially going off-road or off-centered in the lane while cruising. To get a car back into its lane, the driver doesn’t need to pull too hard; tires offer adequate traction in a majority of situations. If an individual finds themselves in this situation, remain calm and let the car slow down on its own and look for a safe area to park the car temporarily to regain composure. In this scenario, only light brakes are necessary.
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3. Use thumb hangers: the "9 and 3"
Keeping your hand in the steering wheel at the orientation of 9 and 3 based on an analog clock would prevent possible injury if a collision occurs and the airbags deploy. According to Demere, one cautionary situation left a cop with broken front teeth because his own hand flung into his face after airbag deployment upon collision with a stopped car. The cop was fiddling with in-car accessories, not paying attention to the road, and had his hand at the position of 12 (the top of the steering wheel). Aside from avoiding hands placed in the 12 position or “hand over hand turns”, the 10 and 2 (once the common wisdom in driver’s ed) should also be avoided due to the wide use of airbags. The proper position to remember is at 9 and 3, known as the “thumb hanger,” with some even positioning hands at 8 and 4. Most modern steering wheels today have thumb impressions on where to correctly place hands.
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4. Train yourself to react
The most cautious drivers may eventually face an emergency. Being prepared or training for it would ensure possible accidents are avoided given only a few seconds of reaction time. When drivers exercise properly, especially with scenarios requiring quick veering, tires barely moan and the cars remain stable as opposed to the common individual who would likely just smash into the back of an oncoming car.
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5. What to do when a tire blows out
Among the most common car problems include the busted or flattened tire. While driving, this may have a dangerous impact on how the vehicle runs, one side of the car would be lower due to the flattened tire, and driving would be unstable. There are a few important things to remember: keep the steering wheel steady despite sudden unstable movements; hit the gas (but don’t floor it) as flattened tires increase resistance and drag; assess whether the flat is on the front or the back; ease the car and slow down.
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6. Recovering from a slide
If you find yourself in a situation where the car is spinning, things to remember include keeping your eyes on a certain point, focused on where you want to be rather than on the object toward where you’re going, and keep it there. Accelerate carefully as this may also cause the car to rock back and forth.
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7. Where to focus on traffic
In a highway, where a lot of cars are involved, it’s always best to remain aware of your surroundings in order to give yourself time to react should an accident occur. In a busy freeway, focus on a few cars in front, look between lanes, and keep aware of possible situations that would require full braking.