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California Driver Handbook - Handling Emergencies


California Driver Handbook - Handling Emergencies

Mechanical Tips

Skids on Slippery Surfaces

Ice and packed snow on the road can cause your vehicle to skid, especially if you are driving too fast or going downhill. If you start to skid:

  • Ease off the accelerator (gas) pedal.
  • Stop braking.
  • Turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid.

If you cannot control your vehicle on a slippery surface, try to find something to stop the skid. Try to get a wheel on dry pavement or on the shoulder of the road. You may have to edge slowly into a snow bank or bushes to stop the vehicle.

To prevent skidding on slippery surfaces:

  • Drive slowly and stay farther behind the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Slow down as you approach curves and intersections.
  • Avoid fast turns.
  • Avoid quick stops. “Pump” the brakes to slow or stop. (Do not pump anti-lock brakes.)
  • Shift to low gear before going down a steep hill.
  • Avoid especially slippery areas, such as ice patches, wet leaves, oil, or deep puddles.

If the brakes get wet, dry them by lightly pressing the accelerator (gas) and brake pedals at the same time so that the vehicle drives against the pressure of the brakes. Perform this light pressing only until the brakes dry.

Driving Off of the Pavement

If your wheels drift off the pavement, grip the steering wheel firmly, ease your foot off the accelerator (gas) pedal, and brake gently. Check for traffic behind you, gently steer back onto the pavement. Do not pull or turn your steering wheel suddenly; this may cause you to drive into oncoming traffic.

Acceleration Skids

An acceleration skid usually happens when the drive wheels lose traction on the road surface. To maintain control of a skidding vehicle, do not apply the brakes. Ease off the accelerator (gas) pedal and straighten the front wheels as the vehicle begins to straighten itself out.

Locked Wheel Skids

This type of skid is usually caused by braking too hard at a high rate of speed and locking the wheels. The vehicle will skid no matter which way the steering wheel is turned. Take your foot off the brake to unlock the wheels. Then, straighten the front wheels as the vehicle begins to straighten out. If your vehicle is not equipped with anti-lock brakes and you enter a locked wheel skid, step on the brake gradually until you are at a safe speed to continue driving. However, if you press the brake pedal and it sinks to the floor, quickly pump the brake pedal to build pressure. As you’re pumping the brakes, down shift your vehicle into a lower gear or neutral to slow down. Then try using your emergency or parking brake to stop. Slow the vehicle gradually until you are at a safe speed to continue driving.

Accelerator Malfunction

If your accelerator becomes stuck you should:

  1. Shift to neutral.
  2. Apply the brakes.
  3. Keep your eyes on the road.
  4. Look for an alternate route away from traffic or look for a way out.
  5. Warn other drivers by honking and turning on your emergency lights.
  6. Try to drive the car safely off the road.
  7. Stop and turn off the ignition.

Warning: Turning the ignition off while the vehicle is moving may lock the steering wheel; you will not have control of the steering.

Steering Wheel Locking Device

Never turn your vehicle’s ignition to the “lock” position while it is still in motion; the steering will lock and you will lose control of your vehicle.

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