Good forward planning and anticipation can help in avoiding emergencies. Good drivers will rarely have to stop in an emergency as they are always on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations and will act accordingly.Â As a driver if you spot any possible danger early, the sooner you can act on it. When driving, taking early precautions, for example slowing down early, will make it less likely that you need to stop in an emergency. But even experienced and professional drivers sometimes find themselves having to stop quickly because something unexpected happens, for example a pedestrian running into the road and consequently the only course of action is to undertake an emergency stop. Quick reactions are important in an emergency In real emergency situations it is vital that you react quickly, and you may not have time to check the mirrors before braking. As you drive, make sure that you are using your mirrors often so that you are aware of what is happening behind. As soon as you see the danger you need to apply your footbrake quickly and firmly. Ensure that you depress the brake before the clutch. If you depress the clutch first the car may become unstable and difficult to control. When you leave the clutch pedal until the last moment, the engine will help the car to slow down and you will also reduce the chances of skidding, as the road wheels are less likely to lock. When braking, you need to follow the rule of progressive braking, but unlike the case in a normal stop, you will not need to ease off the footbrake as the vehicle stops.
Â Whilst braking, keep both hands firmly on the steering until the car has stopped. When you brake hard the weight of the car is thrown forwards and this means that you need a firm grip on the steering wheel to maintain direction or correct skids.
Â Just before the car comes to a stop depress the clutch fully to the floor. After coming to a complete stop, secure the vehicle by applying the parking brake or handbrake and select neutral.Â
After stopping in an emergency, you need to remember that you were in your normal driving position on the road. Before moving away again, prepare the vehicle to move and take effective observations in all your mirrors and check the blind spots to both the left and the right, ensuring it is safe before moving.
Skids happen when you try to change speed (accelerating or braking) or change direction so suddenly that the tyres lose their grip with the road. The causes of skids are excessive acceleration especially on a wet road (poor road surface); steering too harshly; and braking too harshly. These situations can lead to your vehicleâ€™s wheels lock up, which may result in rear-wheel skid, in which the rear of the car may swing round.
Â To recover from skid, remove the cause of the skid by releasing the footbrake to allow the wheels to turn again, and then reapply the brake if necessary, with less pressure. To correct a skid, ease off the accelerator and steer into the skid, that is, if your back end swings out on the right, then turn your steering wheel to the right which will help straighten up your vehicleÂ Most modern cars have anti-lock braking systems (ABS), which have sensor controls to release the brake and immediately apply it again, therefore preventing the wheels from locking.
Â In correcting a skid in vehicles without ABS, if your wheels lock up, you need to release the footbrake and re-apply the brake not so harshly. To avoid skidding when driving, always look out for hazardous road conditions and adjust your speed to suit the road conditions.
Â In next weekâ€™s article we shall be discussing driving in poor/special conditions â€“ night, rain, harmattan haze, misty/foggy weather, etc. For further explanations or clarification on the articles in the Essential Skills of Driving column, consult the author.
Â Â Stephen K. Dieseruvwe
Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)
**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant