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Handling emergencies

November 19, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Breakdowns happen. Fact. Sometimes they happen at inconvenient times. Count on it. Sometimes they happen so suddenly, and with so little warning that we might not respond as correctly or quickly as we could have done. This can be handled with training, sometimes with only mental preparation. Baseball players, no matter their position on the field, must decide before the pitch, what they will do with the ball if it's hit to them. Celebrating with a "chicken dance" while a runner is stealing a base will get you towel-whipped in the locker room later. Stomping on the brakes when you have a tire blow-out could land you wheels-up in a canal. Let's review some better responses to various car emergencies, because that's all I know about baseball.

- Suppose you have that tire blow-out while driving 70 on an interstate. Here's the deal: the deflated tire will be flopping along the road while still attached to your wheel. It will make the car shake, sometimes a lot and, if it is a front tire, it will shake the steering wheel violently. You have to hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands to control the shaking. Turning or stopping will tend to rip the tire off of the wheel, and you want to keep that rubber tire attached all the way to a stop, so you don't want to hit the brakes or turn off the road yet. Go straight and coast to a very slow speed and then and only then, turn and drive off of the road. Park well away from the pavement. If you turn off into the grass at high speed, you are almost guaranteed to spin or roll over because your three remaining tires cannot control the car.

- Suppose your engine suddenly dies while you're driving. You will feel the sudden slowdown but more importantly you will notice a loss of power steering, and when you try to stop, you'll notice a lack of power brakes. Calm down. You still have steering and brakes, you just have to use more muscle to make them work. Two hands on the wheel and two feet on the brake may be necessary. Down-shifting into a lower gear, like D2 on an automatic, or second gear with a standard shift, may help you slow down quicker. As you come to a stop it may become very hard to steer, so you want to go straight into a safe area to stop. By the way, from a broken belt on the engine, the same things can happen to the steering and, in some cases, the brakes. The engine may still be running. Even if it is running, don't drive it any farther, because that belt probably ran the water pump, and without it working, the engine would be damaged.

- How about your response to the sudden acceleration syndrome? In most cases, it is the driver pressing the gas pedal while thinking it's the brake pedal, and if they're crashing through a restaurant at the time, they panic and push harder. But sometimes throttles do stick. Listen up. Every transmission shift lever can be easily pushed from drive to neutral at any time. No fancy release buttons are ever needed to do this. If it happens to you, simply push the lever to neutral and the acceleration will stop. The engine will be racing, so you need to coast to a safe place to stop, but at least you will have power steering and brakes to do that with. Then, when you stop, while it's still in neutral, you can simply switch off the key to kill the engine. Don't try to shift into park while it's running, it will try to take off backwards when you pass the lever through the reverse position. You can also switch it off while you're still driving, but you will lose your power steering and brakes. It won't lock your steering wheel unless you're in park, and it won't go into park while you're moving. There is no reason to go rocketing down the road claiming that you can't stop unless you're trying for 15 minutes of fame. When you're famous enough, shove it into neutral.



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