You are an amazing driver. You never text and drive, drink and drive, apply eyeliner and drive, or read the newspaper and drive. You are doing everything right. You’ve even considered (big step!) not talking on your cell while driving. And then, out of nowhere, you get in a huge accident and, gasp!, it may even be your fault. How does this happen?
Blame the hidden driving dangers of the road. These are situations that are more common than we think, that even the best drivers may not be able to handle smoothly or, without an accident. These are the loopholes of driving rules and circumstances that catch us off guard even when we are completely paying attention behind the wheel, which if we’re being honest, is not as often as it should be anyway.
Would you know what to do in these situations?
An Emergency Vehicle is Behind you on the Highway (sirens ON):
It’s rush hour and there are cars behind, in front, and to each side of you. An ambulance speeds up behind you, and your choices are to stop, find an inch on the shoulder if everyone else gets over, or assume the ambulance will find another way around you. Once you’ve made that decision, there’s the dilemma of whether or not to come to a complete stop (from 60+ mph) or whether to keep rolling slowly to be able to ease back into traffic. It seems this is a time to use your best judgment and get out of the way without crashing into someone else going this way and that using their best judgment.
The one time there is a very concrete rule about emergency vehicles on the highway is the “Move Over Law”—which, in many states, means that when you approach a stopped police car with flashing lights on the highway, you need to move to the next lane over. If that won’t work, the next best thing is to slow way down for their safety. And yes, if you don’t, you can get a ticket. Who knew?
An Animal Runs out in the Road in front of you:
In driver’s ed they always taught you to hold steady on your wheel and go ahead and hit Peter Rabbit—poor guy. A deer is a little more confrontational, and may be worth swerving for. But how can even the best drivers prevent the swerve reaction from kicking in when a smaller animal crosses their path? It’s so natural to slam on the brakes and swerve to save a furry stranger. But at what expense? Sometimes a huge one, including the car and safety of the person driving in the opposite direction. Hold your ground, and pray you just knick a squirrel toenail…it may be a bumpy ride.
A Bag—or Bird or UFO—unexpectedly hits your windshield, blocking your view:
You are driving behind a semi truck full of—unidentified bag-like canvas things? And you get the strange feeling that one may fly off at some point. Maybe it’s the loose cargo flying ten feet above the truck, hanging on by a thread. One of these days, the canvas really will rip off and land right on your windshield. First reaction? Slam on the brakes, doubling your danger from not only blind driving, but also to a likely rear-ending by the car behind you. If possible, slow down, keep the wheel steady where it was, and use your mirrors to merge to the slow lane and shoulder. If you’re lucky, the unwelcome litter may blow off on its own. Hazard lights are a must too during this process—for those who can’t see the junk on your window.
What situations have you had to navigate unexpectedly on the road?