How to react to automobile emergencies

Car on side of road with hood up
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 9:42am

Do you know how to respond when an emergency happens while in your vehicle? 

Driving requires you to be safe and attentive at all times. Many things you encounter on the road are out of your control. Do you know how to respond safely when certain situations happen to your car while driving? Troopers from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol suggest drivers follow the quick tips below to enure they know how to safely navigate emergencies while behind the wheel.

Break downs

If your vehicle is experiencing trouble or has broken down, try to move it completely off the road and onto the shoulder. You and all passengers should exit the vehicle from the passenger side. While waiting for assistance, do not stand in front of or behind the vehicle. You should stand away from the road and the vehicle and tie a white cloth to the left door handle or radio antenna if you need help. And of course, turn on the vehicle’s emergency flashers.

Hit a deer or other large animal

Wildlife are a part of the beauty of North Carolina, but sometimes they find themselves on the roads with us. If you strike an animal while driving, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your emergency flashers. Contact the police to report the incident and make sure to stay away from the animal. It might still be alive and could be in distress and dangerous. You will also want to take photos of any damage to the vehicle and the surroundings for filing an insurance claim.

Tire blowout

You will hear a loud noise, and the car will begin to swerve if a tire is blown. If this happens, don’t panic -- take your foot off the gas, hold the steering wheel tightly and try to steer straight to keep your vehicle on your side of the road. Then, safely move the vehicle completely off the road.

It’s a good practice to regularly check the air in the vehicle’s spare tire. Also, make sure your vehicle is equipped with the proper equipment to change a tire: Jack and lug wrench. In the event you have a blowout or flat tire, you will have the equipment on hand to change it.

Driving out of a skid or hydroplaning

If you begin skidding or hydroplaning (sliding or skidding of tires across a wet furface), remove your foot from the accelerator and do not press the brake. Begin to steer the vehicle in the direction you want to travel until you are out of the skid.

Escaping from a submerged vehicle

It can be scary, but you can survive driving into a body water if you are prepared and know what to do. Stay calm and brace for impact. Try grasping the steering wheel to avoid injuries if the air bag inflates. Undo your seatbelt and the seatbelts of children (oldest first) while the vehicle is floating. Next, unlock the doors and open the windows while the electrical system is still working. Finally, take a deep breath and leave the vehicle through a window. Make sure children leave first.

Move Over Law

And as always, remember North Carolina’s “Move Over Law.” It requires motorists, if they can safely do so, to move at least one lane away from qualified vehicles with flashing lights (e.g, law enforcement, EMS, fire, tow trucks and utility vehicles) that are stopped on the side of the road.


For more roadway safety tips, visit our Safety Tip Index.

Dabney Weems
F/Sgt. Michael Baker