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Special Circumstances and Emergencies​

The following pages give you information about how to drive safely and reduce your risk of crashing in these special circumstances – in highway work zones, at railroad crossings, and when you encounter pedestrians, cyclists, trucks, buses or emergency vehicles – and when you must deal with road rage and various driving emergencies.

Information about special events and emergencies is useful for motorists to plan their trip. A motorist may choose to avoid undesirable delays, or even potentially unsafe roadway conditions, by checking media, such as, to see if their trip route is clear before they depart.

Work Zones

Did You Know?

Every year in the U.S., about 40,000 people, including highway workers and motorists, are injured or killed as a result of vehicle crashes in work zones. Carelessness and speeding are the main causes of traffic fatalities in work zones.

Work zones are areas with construction, maintenance, or utility work activities and are identified with orange channelizing devices, such as cones, or other temporary traffic control devices. You may encounter a flagger directing traffic and wearing reflective clothing. Warning signs, advance warning vehicles, or variable message boards may be placed a minimum of 200 feet approaching a work zone. When you see the first sign, pay strict attention to the road, vehicles, equipment, and people you could encounter. Some work zones are accompanied by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Moving operations, such as line painting, crack sealing, and mowing sometimes use shadow vehicles at the back of the operation to warn motorists that there is a work zone ahead and also serve as protection to the crew. Do not pass a moving operation unless directed to.

An active work zone is where workers are located on or near the roadway. Always watch out for construction workers and be prepared for abnormal conditions such as narrow lanes, rough pavement, uneven lanes, and abrupt lane shifts.

Drivers must yield the right-of-way to workers and construction vehicles in work zones. By law, you must turn on your vehicle's headlights, not just the daytime running lights, when driving through these areas. You may be fined for failure to use your headlights in an active work zone. Also, fines are doubled for certain violations in active work zones, including speeding. In addition, certain violations will result in a driver's license suspension.

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Be prepared for slow or stopped traffic as you approach a work zone, and follow these safety rules:

  • Plan your trip. You may avoid travel delays if you choose an alternate route around the work zone.
  • Do not use your cruise control in work zones.
  • Double your following distance; the most common crash type in work zones is the rear-end collision.
  • Prepare to change lanes as soon as you see a message telling you your lane is closed ahead.
  • DO NOT CROSS a solid white line in a work zone; stay in your lane.
  • Proceed cautiously and keep moving at a safe speed as you drive through the work zone; do not slow or stop to watch roadwork.
  • Do not stop within a work zone to ask directions from the workers.
  • Obey flaggers – their authority overrides conventional traffic control devices.

Remember: Work zone flaggers can report unsafe motorists, speeders, and aggressive drivers to the police using a Police Arrest Form!

Railroad Crossings

Did You Know?

Every hour and a half, a train collides with a vehicle or a pedestrian in the U.S. You are 40 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than you are in a crash with another vehicle.

Most railroad crossings are protected only by an advanced warning sign and a crossbuck. Most crossings do not have gates to stop traffic. You must be especially alert when approaching all railroad crossings.

Familiar crossings without much train traffic can be the most dangerous. If you often use such a crossing and do not usually see a train, you may start to believe trains never go by; believing this can be dangerous.

Remember these points at railroad crossings:

  • Always look left, right, and then left again as you approach a railroad crossing. Do this even if the crossing is active and the signals are not flashing — they may not be working.
  • If you are stopped at a railroad crossing with more than one track, do not start as soon as the train passes. Wait until you have a clear view of both tracks before you start across. Even with one track, do not start across immediately after a train passes. Check again for another train that may be approaching.
  • Never try to pass someone as you approach or enter a railroad crossing.
  • Do not blindly follow the lead of another vehicle crossing the tracks. If you are following another vehicle, check to make sure you have enough room to get all the way across before you drive onto the tracks. If traffic slows ahead of you, wait for it to clear before starting to cross. Do not ever get trapped on the tracks.
  • If you make the mistake of getting trapped on a railroad crossing and a train is approaching, quickly leave the vehicle and move as far away from the track as you can.

Sharing The Road With Pedestrians, Bicyclists, and Motorcyclists and Moped Drivers

Pedestrians and cyclists deserve your respect as a vehicle operator. These groups are all more vulnerable to injury in a crash, yet have rights to use the public roads just as you do. Remember the following safety tips.


  • Yield to pedestrians crossing at intersections or in crosswalks.
  • Right turn on red means stop, look in all directions and then turn when it is safe. Look for pedestrians, and allow ample time for them to clear the crosswalk.
  • Always reduce speed and use extra caution when children are in the vicinity. They may fail to understand the danger and may run out in front of you without looking.
  • You must observe school zone speed limits and stop for school buses when red signals are flashing. School zones and school bus stops are locations with high concentrations of children.
  • Be patient with elderly pedestrians and pedestrians with disabilities. They need extra time to cross a street.
  • Before backing up, always check for pedestrians in your path.
  • Yield the right-of-way (slow down and prepare to stop) to blind pedestrians, whether they have a white cane or a guide dog, or are being led by others.
  • When approaching a stopped vehicle from behind, slow down and do not pass until you are sure there are no pedestrians crossing in front of it.
  • When pedestrians do see you, it is never safe to wave a pedestrian into the line of traffic at any time and especially at unmarked or mid-block locations.


Safety Tips (refer to Chapter 5 for more information):

  • When approaching or passing a bicycle, slow down to a safe speed.
  • After you have passed a bicyclist, do not slow down or stop quickly. A quick stop could lead to the bicyclist crashing into your vehicle.
  • Do not sound your horn close to bicyclists, unless you must do so to avoid a crash.

More information can be found in the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver's Manual (PDF).

Motorcyclists And Moped Drivers

  • According to the law, you must allow the motorcyclist/moped driver to use one complete lane.
  • Most motorcycle/vehicle or moped/vehicle crashes happen at intersections. Usually, the vehicle turns left in front of a moving motorcycle/moped when the driver of the vehicle should have yielded the right of way.
  • Do not assume a motorcycle/moped is turning when you see its turn signal flashing. A motorcycle/moped's turn signals may not turn off automatically, like a vehicle's. Do not pull out in front of a motorcycle/moped until you see it actually turning.
  • Obstacles that may prove minor to a motorist can be deadly to a motorcyclist/moped driver. Be prepared for motorcyclists/moped drivers to make sudden changes in lanes or speed as they attempt to avoid a hazard on the road.
  • Allow the same 4-second following distance or more you would allow for other vehicles. Increase your following distance behind a motorcycle/moped, when road or weather conditions are bad.

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Sharing The Road With Trucks And Buses

Whether you are sharing the road with a vehicle, truck, bus, or other large vehicles, it is important for safety's sake to obey traffic laws, abide by the rules of the road and drive defensively. There are special rules for sharing the road with trucks and buses, and the following are some suggestions you can use to make your trip safer. The key to safer highways is to know the truck's or bus's blind spot (No-Zone). The No-Zone represents danger areas around trucks and buses where crashes are more likely to occur.

Passing A Truck

On a level highway, it takes only three to five seconds longer to pass a truck than a vehicle. On an upgrade, a truck often loses speed, so it is easier to pass than a vehicle. On a downgrade, the truck's momentum will cause it to go faster, so you may need to increase your speed.

When vehicles cut in too soon after passing and then abruptly slow down, truck drivers are forced to compensate with little time or room to spare.

Make sure there is plenty of space between your vehicle and any vehicle ahead of you in the passing lane so you are not trapped if the truck begins to pull into your lane. Pass quickly without hanging in the truck's blind spot. Keep both hands on the wheel to deal with the effects of turbulence. You may want to stay to the left side of the passing lane. Complete your pass as quickly as possible, and do not stay alongside the other vehicle. Be sure to move back only when you see the front of the truck in your rearview mirror. After you pass a truck, maintain your speed. Think twice about passing on curves where there is a greater danger of error and a higher collision potential.

Fact: Allow yourself plenty of time when passing a truck. At highway speeds, it can take up to 30 seconds to safely pass a truck. When you pass, do so quickly. Do not continuously drive alongside a truck. You are in the truck driver's blind spot. After passing, change lanes only when you can see the truck's headlights or front grill in your rearview mirror.

Truck Passing

When a truck passes your vehicle, you can help the truck driver by keeping to the far side of your lane. You will make it easier for the truck driver if you reduce your speed slightly and then keep your speed steady. In any event, do not increase your speed while the truck is passing you. Trucks have much larger No-Zones on both sides of their vehicle than passenger vehicles. When you drive in these No-Zones, you cannot be seen by truck drivers. If you are in a truck's blind spot and it begins to move over into your lane, remain calm and take note of your vehicle's position relative to the front of the truck. Decide whether to speed up or slow down to avoid a collision. Consider the shoulder as an escape route.

When you meet a truck coming from the opposite direction, keep as far as possible to the side to avoid a side-swiped crash and to reduce the wind turbulence between your vehicle and the truck. Remember, the wind turbulence pushes vehicles apart. It does not pull them together. Maintain plenty of cushion between your vehicle and any vehicle ahead of you.

Following A Truck

Because of their size, trucks need longer distances to stop. However, a vehicle following too closely still may not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid rear-ending the truck. If you are following a truck, stay out of its No-Zone. Avoid following too closely and position your vehicle so the truck driver can see it in their side mirrors. You will then have a good view of the road ahead, and the truck driver can give you plenty of warning for a stop or a turn. You will have more time to react and make a safe stop. When following a truck or bus, if you cannot see the side mirrors of the vehicle in front of you, the driver of the large vehicle cannot see you.

Leave plenty of room between you and the truck when coming to a stop on a hill. Trucks may roll back as a driver takes their foot off of the brake.

When you follow a truck or any vehicle at night, always dim your headlights. Bright lights from a vehicle behind will blind the truck driver when they reflect off of the truck’s large side mirrors.

Fact: At least four seconds are needed to keep you out of the truck’s rear blind spot, and here’s an easy method to compute the correct distance: As a truck passes a stationary object alongside the road, start counting, one thousand one, one thousand two, etc. You should reach one thousand four just as your front bumper reaches the same object. If you arrive before one thousand four, you are traveling too close to the back of the truck.


Pay close attention to truck turn signals. Truck drivers must make wide turns so the rear of the truck or the rear of a tractor-trailer can clear the corner or any other standing obstructions. Sometimes, space from other lanes is used to clear corners. To avoid a crash, do not pass until the turning action is complete. Again, pay close attention to turn signals.

Fact: Trucks make wide turns. It may look like trucks are going straight or turning left when they are actually making a right turn. This technique – combined with blind spots alongside the trailer – makes trying to pass a turning truck a dangerous maneuver. Truck drivers cannot see vehicles squeezing in between them and the curb. Stay put, and give truck drivers plenty of room to turn.

Oversized Loads

Oversized loads are accompanied by pilot vehicles. Oversized load movements operate the same as tractor-trailers and should be treated with the same rules as trucks. Most oversized loads operate within prescribed lanes; however, due to their excessive width, obstacles on the berm could cause them to cross the yellow or white line.

Pilot vehicles are required by law to help warn motorists of oversized loads and/or slow-moving vehicles. Pilot vehicles are required to have special signs and lights to help identify them as such, and drivers should be aware that when they are seen they are approaching an oversized vehicle. When you see these vehicles, please take extra caution.

Backing Crashes

Never try to cross behind a truck preparing to back up. Often, when a truck driver is preparing to back the truck from a roadway into a loading area, there is no choice but to temporarily block the roadway. It is here that some drivers and pedestrians attempt to pass behind the truck rather than wait a few seconds for the truck to complete its maneuver. In passing close behind the truck, the driver or pedestrian enters the truck's No-Zone, and a crash may occur.


Unlike the hydraulic brakes on vehicles, trucks, and buses may have air brakes and take longer distances to stop. A loaded truck with good tires and properly adjusted brakes, traveling at 65 mph on a clear, dry roadway, requires a minimum of 600 feet to come to a complete stop (compared to the stopping distance of 400 feet for a passenger vehicle). It is essential to refrain from entering a roadway and if you are turning off of the roadway, to avoid changing lanes in front of a large vehicle.

Escape Ramps

On long downgrades, there may be special "escape" or "runaway" ramps for trucks. These ramps are to be used only by large vehicles that are out of control or cannot stop because of brake failure. Never stop or park in the vicinity of these ramps.


Buses are vehicles that also take up more room on a road than an ordinary vehicle. The same procedures should be followed when sharing the road with a bus or truck.

School Buses

All Vehicles Must Stop!

Failure to stop for a school bus with a flashing red light and extended stop arm will result in a 60-day suspension of your driver's license, five points on your driving record and a fine.

Pennsylvania has special rules you must follow when you drive near a school bus. These rules protect children and drivers.

When a school bus is preparing to stop, its amber (yellow) lights will begin flashing. When the bus stops with its red lights flashing and its stop arm extended, you must stop at least 10 feet away from the bus whether you are behind it or coming toward it on the same roadway or approaching an intersection at which the school bus is stopped. Remain stopped until the red lights stop flashing, the stop arm has been withdrawn, and the children have reached a safe place.

There is only one exception to the school bus stopping requirement. If you are approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended and you are driving on the opposite side of a divided highway, (i.e. concrete/metal barriers, guide rails or trees/rocks/streams/grass median), you do not have to stop. Reduce your speed and continue driving with caution.

Animated graphic showing aspects of Pennsylvania's school bus stopping law

Emergency Vehicles And Situations

Certain vehicles have sirens and flashing red lights or a combination of flashing red and blue lights. The lights assist emergency vehicles to move quickly through traffic and to answer emergency calls. Emergency vehicles include fire department vehicles, police cars, ambulances, blood delivery vehicles, and specially equipped vehicles from rescue organizations. Watch out for them.

When you hear a siren or see a vehicle approaching from any direction with flashing red lights or a combination of red and blue lights, you must:

  • Pull over to the curb or side of the road and stop.
  • Drive parallel and as near to the curb as possible. On one-way streets, drive toward the nearest roadside and stop.
  • Stay clear of intersections.
  • Start driving again after the emergency vehicle passes you, keeping at least 500 feet away from it.
  • Make sure another emergency vehicle is not coming.

During an emergency situation, all drivers must obey the direction of any uniformed police officer, sheriff, constable, or any properly attired person, including fire police.

Take sirens seriously, and make way for an ambulance, fire truck, or police vehicle. Someday you may be the one calling for help, or the life on the line might be a friend or family member.

Steer Clear Law

The Steer Clear law, which went into effect Sept. 8, 2006, requires motorists to move into a lane that is not adjacent to an emergency response area. An emergency response area is an area on or near a road where services are being provided by police, sheriffs, coroners, medical examiners, firefighters, fire police, fire marshals, rescue personnel, emergency medical service personnel, towing and recovery personnel, hazardous material response team members and/or highway construction and maintenance personnel. If drivers cannot move over because of traffic or other conditions, they must reduce their speed. In cases where law enforcement may not be present, the law allows road workers and emergency responders to report violations by motorists. Law enforcement may issue citations based on these reports. Failure to move over or slow down can result in a summary offense that carries a fine of up to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third and subsequent offense. In addition, fines will be doubled for traffic violations occurring in work zone areas. If the violation of this law leads to the serious injury or death of another person, a 90-day license suspension and a fine of up to $1,000 could result. If the violation of this law leads to the serious injury or death of a highway worker or an emergency responder, it could lead up to a one-year license suspension and a fine of up to $10,000.

Horse-Drawn Vehicles And Horseback Riders

There are some important things to keep in mind in areas where you may encounter horse-drawn vehicles or horseback riders. Many horse-drawn vehicles are dark in color and therefore are difficult to see at dawn, dusk, or night. When following or stopped behind a horse-drawn vehicle, be sure to leave plenty of room between the two vehicles. After stopping, horse-drawn vehicles often roll backward and following too close limits the horsedrawn vehicle driver's ability to see you. This will also provide adequate space for when you prepare to pass. When you pass a horse-drawn vehicle or horseback rider, do not drive too fast or blow your horn, as this may spook the horse. Also, to avoid spooking the horse after passing, be sure to leave enough space between your vehicle and the horse before pulling back into the right lane. Always remember, when on the road everyone has the same rights.

Passengers In An Open-Bed Trucks

An open-bed pickup truck or open flatbed truck may not be driven at a speed of more than 35 mph, if any person is occupying the bed of the truck. Such a truck may not be driven when a child under 18 years of age is occupying the bed of the truck.

Exceptions to this law are:

  • A child of a farmer, who is being transported between parts of a farm or farms owned or operated by the farmer in order to perform work on the farm or farms.
  • A child employed to perform farm labor, who is being transported between parts of a farm or farms owned or operated by the child's employer or employers.
  • A child possessing a valid hunting license, who is being transported between a hunting camp and a hunting site or between hunting sites during hunting season.
  • A child who is a participant in an officially sanctioned parade, only during the course of the parade.

Snow Plows

Plow drivers removing snow in the winter have very limited visibility in their mirrors. Plows must often turn around, and their drivers cannot see you behind them. Be sure to follow at a safe distance. This will help protect your vehicle from being damaged by the salt, de-icing liquids, and anti-skid pellets thrown from snow plows.

Also, these vehicles may have wing plows that stick out several feet on either side. These are difficult for drivers to see in bad weather or at night and have been involved in multiple side-swipe accidents. To be safe, you should not attempt to pass a plow, either on the left or on the right.

Dealing With Road Rage

Did You Know?

Of the approximate 1,500 highway deaths in PA each year, about 60 percent, or around 900, are attributed to aggressive driving.

NEVER take your anger out on someone else on the road. Sometimes incidents of road rage are caused by simple misunderstandings between drivers. One driver may make a momentary error in judgment that another driver sees as an aggressive act, though none was intended.

NEVER take it personally when someone cuts you off or pulls in front of you. Just let it go, and ignore the other driver.

If something does happen, DO NOT RETALIATE. It is a serious distraction to focus your attention on a "contest" with another driver. You are less able to respond to traffic signs, signals, and the actions of other vehicles or pedestrians, as needed to avoid a crash.

DO NOT TRY TO TEACH ANOTHER DRIVER A LESSON. Do not insist on being right, even if you are right. You could be dead right!

Here are some tips to help you stay safe if you encounter an aggressive driver:

  • Make every attempt to get out of the aggressive driver’s way.
  • Do not block the passing lane. If someone demands to pass, let them go.
  • Do not challenge an aggressive driver by speeding up. It will just make the driver angrier and endanger you.
  • Avoid eye contact with a hostile driver.
  • Ignore gestures, and do not gesture back.
  • Call the police or 911, if you have a hands free device and can do it safely, or have a passenger call.

If an aggressive driver pursues you, do not go home. Instead, drive to a police station, convenience store, or other location where you can get help and there will be witnesses.

Dealing With Driving Emergencies

Did You Know?

In a review of 12,000 crashes, 37 percent of the drivers took no action to avoid the crash.

If you are like most drivers, you will not have the chance to practice how you would act in an emergency before it happens. But, knowing what to do in certain critical driving situations can still make a difference. Taking the wrong action or no action when something goes wrong obviously will increase your chances of crashing your vehicle.

Steering Your Way Out Of An Emergency

When you have a choice of either braking or steering to avoid a collision, it is usually better if you can steer to avoid the hazard than to brake, particularly at speeds above 25 mph. This is because your reaction time to swerve is faster than your reaction time to brake. But, you must have good steering skills to keep control of your vehicle in an emergency.

As a general rule, you should be holding the steering wheel with both hands. This is especially important in emergencies because evasive steering requires you to turn the steering wheel quickly at least one-half turn in one direction, and then turn the wheel back almost a full circle in the opposite direction, once you clear the object. You then return to center steering to continue moving in your original direction of travel. At higher speeds, less steering input is needed to move your vehicle to the left or right.

Get into the habit of holding the steering wheel as shown at right. If you think of the steering wheel as a clock face, your hands should hold the wheel at either the 9 and 3 o'clock position or the 8 and 4 o'clock position, whichever is the most comfortable. Keep your thumbs along the face of the steering wheel instead of gripping the inside of the rim.

By keeping your hands in this position on the wheel:

  • You will be less likely to overcorrect during an emergency steering maneuver, which could cause you to spin out of control or run off of the road.
  • It is less likely the airbag will throw your arms and hands back into your face, maybe even breaking them, if you are involved in a crash.
  • Your arms will be more comfortable and less fatigued during long drives.

A 10 and 2 o'clock hand position is acceptable; however, if your airbag deploys, you are at risk of injury.

There are two ways to use the steering wheel to make a turn. In the "hand-over-hand" method, the driver reaches across the steering wheel to grasp the opposite side and pulls the wheel over the top, repeating as needed. In the "push-pull" method, one hand pushes up on the steering wheel while the other hand slides to the top and then pulls the wheel down, repeating the action until the turn is complete.

If you cannot avoid a collision, remember this: Injury prevention in a crash depends mostly on wearing your seat belt properly, having your head restraints properly adjusted, having an airbag in your vehicle, and being positioned at least 10 inches away from your airbag.

If You Have To Brake Suddenly

If you need to hit your brakes in a hurry, your safety depends on knowing whether your vehicle has conventional or anti-lock brakes (ABS), and how to use them.

  • Without ABS, press and release the brakes repeatedly. Pumping the brakes will slow your vehicle and keep it under control. Slamming on the brakes can lock your wheels, causing your vehicle to skid.
  • With ABS, maintain firm and continuous pressure on the brake — your vehicle will not skid. Do not pump the brake pedal. Do not be alarmed by mechanical noises and/or slight pulsations.

You should check your owner's manual to determine what kind of braking system your vehicle has. Do this before you get into an emergency. Knowing how to apply your brakes in an emergency situation may save your life.

If Your Vehicle Starts To Skid

If your vehicle starts to skid on a wet or icy road, look and steer in the direction you want to go. If the rear of your vehicle is skidding to the left, turn the wheel to the left. If the rear of your vehicle is skidding to the right, turn the wheel to the right. When you steer to correct a skid, another skid may result in the opposite direction, but the second skid will not be as bad as the first. Be ready to stop the second skid the same way — by steering in the direction the rear of your vehicle is skidding. It may take a few of these "corrections" before you have fully regained control of your vehicle.

When skidding, do not use your brakes. If you hit the brakes, the skid will be worse. You risk locking your wheels and losing all steering control.

Flooded Roadways

On flooded roadways, even at low speeds, as little as 6 inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle or truck and can float some small vehicles. Two feet of water will carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Once a vehicle floats off of the roadway into deeper water, it may roll and fill with water, trapping the driver and passengers inside. If there is moving water on the road, the safest thing to do is find another route.

NOTE: It is against the law to drive around or through signs or traffic control devices that close a road or highway due to hazardous conditions. For more information on the law and its penalties see Chapter 5.

If Your Accelerator Sticks

If the accelerator (gas pedal) sticks, your vehicle may keep going faster and faster.

If this happens:

  1. Keep your eyes on the road. You can tap the pedal a few times to see if it will spring back to normal, or you may be able to lift it with your toe, but do not reach down to try to free the pedal with your hand.
  2. Shift to neutral immediately and use the brakes, if the pedal remains stuck. This will cause your engine to race, but the power will be removed from your wheels.
  3. Concentrate on steering and pull off of the road when you have slowed down to a safe speed. Stop, turn off the engine, and put on your emergency flashers.

NOTE: If you need to slow or stop quickly, turn your ignition to "OFF." Do not turn it to "LOCK" because you will lose steering ability. Then, apply your brakes. It will require more effort to steer and brake with your ignition off.

If Your Vehicle Has Brake Failure

In newer vehicles, a split braking system reduces the possibility of total brake failure. If your brake system warning light comes on, you may have braking in two of the four wheels, probably one front wheel and one rear wheel. This will allow you to pull over to the side of the road or into the next service station. You will feel the brake pedal go down farther than usual before the vehicle begins to slow, and you will need to push harder on the pedal. Your stopping distance is increased, so be aware of where your vehicle is headed. Shifting to a lower gear will help you slow down.

If you have an older vehicle and your brakes suddenly fail, you should:

  1. Shift to low gear and look for a place to slow to a stop.
  2. Pump the brake pedal quickly several times. This will often build up enough brake pressure to stop the vehicle.
  3. Use the parking (emergency) brake if pumping the brake pedal does not work. Hold the brake release so you can let off of the parking brake, if the rear wheels lock, and you begin to skid.
  4. Keep your eyes focused on where you are going, and look for a safe place to pull off of the road. Look for an open place to steer into, or steer into an uphill road.
  5. Turn your ignition "OFF" as a last resort, if the vehicle still will not stop and you are in danger of crashing. Do not turn it to the "LOCK" position because this will also lock your steering. Then, shift into your lowest gear. This could damage your transmission, so only do this as a last-ditch effort to keep you from crashing.

After you have stopped your vehicle, call for help. Do not try to drive.

If You Have A Tire Blowout

Sometimes thumping noises start before a tire blows out, but you usually will not know ahead of time when a tire will blow. You should protect against blowouts by keeping your tires in good condition and properly inflated.

When a front tire blows out, your steering wheel will vibrate, and you will feel the vehicle suddenly pull to one side. When a rear tire blows out, one corner of the vehicle will drop suddenly, and you will feel the rear of the vehicle wobble back and forth.

If one of your tires blows out, do the following:

  1. Hold the steering wheel tightly.
  2. Stay off of your brake! Braking after a blowout will cause you to skid and lose control of your vehicle.
  3. Slowly take your foot off of the gas pedal.
  4. Steer where you want to go, but steer smoothly. Do not make large or jerky steering actions.

You can ride on a flat tire as long as you need to, in order to get to a safe spot to pull over and change it. If you have to use your brakes, press them gently. Let the vehicle slow to a stop. Make sure it is off of the road before you change the tire.

How To Change A Flat Tire

Keep the tools you will need to change your tire in your vehicle at all times, i.e., spare tire, lug wrench, jack, screwdriver, flashlight, flares and reflective triangles, wheel wedges, flat tire repair kit, gloves, etc.

Basic instructions for changing a tire. NOTE: The process may differ from vehicle to vehicle, so please consult the vehicle owner's manual.

  1. Park the vehicle on a flat surface that is away from traffic and as far off of the road as possible.
  2. Apply the parking brake and secure the vehicle by placing bricks, wooden wedges, or wheel chocks at both the front and rear of any one of the remaining good tires.
  3. If the vehicle has a wheel cover or a hubcap, carefully pry it off by using a screwdriver or the flat end of the lug wrench.
  4. While the vehicle is on the ground, loosen the lug nuts by using the end of lug wrench that fits the lug nuts of the vehicle. During this step, do not fully remove the lug nuts from the lug bolts.
  5. Place the jack on solid ground securely under the frame or suspension of the vehicle, and/or by consulting the vehicle owner's manual for proper placement of the jack. Raise the vehicle with the jack until the tire is approximately 6 inches off the ground.
  6. Completely remove the lug nuts and place them in a safe area (inside the wheel cover or hub cap works well). Remove the defective tire by grasping it with both hands and pull it straight and evenly off of the lug bolts.
  7. Install the spare wheel/tire onto the wheel lug bolts and install all of the lug nuts by hand. After the nuts are correctly threaded on the lugs, the lug wrench may be used to tighten the nuts; but only use minimal pressure (do not fully torque the nuts at this time).
  8. Slowly lower the vehicle on to the ground, but do not remove the jack from under the vehicle at this step.
  9. After referring to the vehicle operator's manual for the proper torque sequence and torque specs, tighten the lug nuts using the lug wrench.
  10. Secure the jack, tire/wheel, tools, and safety equipment in the trunk of the vehicle.

If the vehicle has wheel covers or hub caps, the owner's manual should provide the instructions for installation. If the vehicle has center caps, place the center cap against the wheel and evenly tap it into place by using the heel of the hand. Verify the securement of the wheel cover or center cap before driving off.

If Your Vehicle Drifts Off Of The Pavement Onto The Shoulder

A serious crash can result if you do not know how to recover steering control after experiencing a "drop-off" along the edge of the road where the shoulder is lower than the pavement. A "drop-off" can happen if you are driving too close to the edge of the road or if you drive too fast through a curve and allow your front tire to drift off of the road.

"Drop-offs" are fairly common, especially on rural roads. They can also occur where roads are being resurfaced, and there is a ledge at the shoulder.

A "drop-off" can quickly become an emergency if you do not know how to recover from it. The most important things to remember are: do not steer sharply and do not brake suddenly. If you turn the wheel sharply to get back onto the road, it can cause the vehicle to whip sideways and cross into oncoming traffic. If you brake hard with two wheels on the pavement and two wheels on a soft shoulder, the vehicle will probably skid out of control.

Here is what you should do if you drift off of the pavement:

  1. Ease off of the gas pedal to slow down when your two wheels on the right side both go off of the pavement. Do not brake suddenly. If you must brake to avoid a hazard on the shoulder, use gradual, controlled braking to avoid locking the wheels.
  2. Keep a tight grip on the steering wheel, and steer parallel to the roadway with two wheels on the roadway and two wheels off (straddling the drop-off edge). Keep the tires from scraping the edge of the pavement. Stay calm and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. A soft or wet shoulder will pull your vehicle to the right. Do not steer sharply, trying to get back on the road.
  3. Continue to slow gradually until you are traveling very slowly — less than 25 mph and preferably closer to 10 mph — and you have your vehicle under control.
  4. Check for traffic approaching from the rear in the lane you will re-enter. Turn on your left-turn signal.
  5. Gently steer left to ease the right wheels onto the pavement, when it is clear. As soon as you feel your wheels come back onto the road, gently steer right to straighten out.
  6. Speed up to match the flow of traffic once you are safely back on the pavement and in complete control of your vehicle.

If Another Vehicle Is Approaching Head-On In Your Lane

First, honk your horn to attract attention. If the other driver does not move over, try to escape to the right, if possible. If you swerve left and the other driver corrects at the last instant, you will still crash. If a collision is unavoidable, brake firmly and steadily. Every mile per hour you slow down will reduce the impact.

Funeral Procession

If you see a funeral procession on the road, yield to vehicles in the procession. Once the lead vehicle has cleared an intersection, the rest of the procession may proceed through the intersection, other traffic must yield. Allow the procession to pass, and do not cut in and out of the procession unless you are directed otherwise by a police officer or an agent or employee of the funeral director during a funeral.

All vehicles in a funeral procession must have their headlights and emergency flashers turned on and bear a flag or other insignia designating them as part of the procession. Vehicles in a funeral procession may also have a flashing or revolving purple light displayed on the vehicle during the procession.

Drivers in funeral processions may proceed through a red light or stop sign if the lead vehicle starts through the intersection while the light was green. In the case of a stop sign, the lead vehicle must first come to a complete stop before proceeding through the intersection. Funeral processions must yield to emergency vehicles.

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