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Dealing With Driving Emergencies

Dealing with an emergency situation whilst driving can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Being able to know what to do should the worst happen is essential. We have highlighted some of the most feared but perhaps the most common emergency situations drivers face.

Cracked Windscreen/Windscreen Repairs

A small chip can turn into a crack in cold weather. A sudden jolt such as hitting a speed bump too fast can also cause a chip to form into a crack on a windscreen. Whatever you do, ensure that as soon as you have a chip on your windscreen get it repaired – this will stop a crack forming in most cases.


Tyre manufacturers have learned that 75% of all accidents caused by tyre blowouts come about because of low tyre pressure. The term blowout usually describes a situation when a tyre bursts whilst travelling at speed. This will normally result in the vehicle losing directional stability and control; often a terrifying experience!

According to the tyre industry council, decorative wheel trims, fitted to many vehicles, can possibly cause sidewalls and valve assembly damage, which could lead to tyre blowouts. Although the majority of such trims can be perfectly ok it is worth checking that yours are not slightly oversized, which could cause problems.

Apart from low tyre pressure, one other main reason for blowouts is a defect in the tyre itself. This defect can be due to a weakness when it was manufactured (although this is rare with good quality makes) or more likely it happens when a tyre has been damaged, usually by being hit against a kerb. You can normally check for tyre damage by feeling for bulges in the tyre wall. Tyres that have little or no tread in places stand a greater chance of being involved in a blowout so it makes sense to keep a regular check on your tyres.

Front tyre blowout:

A front tyre blowout will result in the car pulling strongly to one side. If you have a blowout on the front left then the car will pull to the left. If this occurs try to make the car slow down on its own, engaging a lower gear will help. Try to keep a firm hold on the steering wheel.

Rear tyre blowout:

If one of your rear tyres suffers a blowout hold the steering wheel firmly and let the car slow down itself. If needed steer into any resulting skid (i.e. if the cars back end goes left steer left).

General Tips:

  1. Stay calm, be sharp and react quickly.
  2. Aim to bring your car to a standstill on the side of the road.
  3. If possible put your hazard warning lights on whilst still moving, this will alert other drivers that you are in trouble!
  4. Be proactive keep regular checks on your tyres.

As with all of our advanced driving courses our tutors provide further tips on how to deal with such situations.


Aquaplaning is when a wedge of water builds up between the front of the tyres and the road surface. This is normally caused by lack of tyre tread. Trying to brake or steer the vehicle will be no use because your tyres are no longer in contact with the road!

How to deal with aquaplaning

  1. Remove foot from the accelerator and allow engine braking to slow you down.
  2. Ensure you do not turn the steering wheel, as the car will lurch whatever way the wheels are pointing when they gain traction. More on dealing with skids
  3. Be proactive – check that your tyres are in good condition and that you have plenty of grip the legal requirement is 1.6mm as a minimum, however you should avoid getting down to this level.

Car Fires

Faulty wiring normally causes car fires. If you suspect that your car is on fire whilst moving your first thought should be to get out of the car ASAP.

How can you tell your car is on fire?

It is not always as obvious as it first appears. Sometimes you will have smoke coming up the vents in which case you should really be thinking about getting out! However, sometimes you may be able to spot early signs such as smelling burning plastic and toxic burning smells.

How to deal with a car fire

  1. The first thing to do is stop your car, ideally off the road.
  2. Turn off the ignition.
  3. If you have a fire extinguisher try to tackle it if it’s small, but remember your own safety.
  4. Do not open the bonnet if you think the fire is coming from there unless you have a fire extinguisher. If you do only open it slightly as the air can cause the flames to spread.
  5. Call the fire brigade ASAP ensuring you and all your passengers are well away from the car (at least 50 metres).

Brake Failure

Ensuring your car is serviced on a regular basis will greatly reduce the chance of brake failure. Brake failure can be best described as applying the foot brake and getting no response – simple!

How to deal with brake failure

If you have total brake failure it is best to apply the handbrake in an on/off motion. It is also advisable to try to select (even at force) a lower gear, the car may not like it but it could be your only way of stopping.

Skid Pan Training from £99

As a national provider of advanced driving courses, we understand the key importance of learning skid control, and believe investing in such is a wise investment. There are significant benefits of taking a skid pan course. People usually only experience a significant, serious skid in a terrifying, real life situation. Due to this fact it makes sense to experience what it is like in a safe, controlled (and often fun!) environment.


Benefits of a Skid Pan Course/Session:

1. Improve confidence
2. Understand different types of skids (understeer, oversteer, four wheel drift)
3. Learn what actually is “aquaplaning”
4. Learn what causes skids
5. Learn how to control a skid

Book a Skid Pan Course Online:

We work in affiliation with Red Letter Days – who we feel offer the very best range of skid pan courses in the UK, the link below lists the range of skid pan courses in price order. A skid pan course is an ideal gift for a loved one, for employee driver training, which is often a precursor to our on-road training, or for anyone who wants to build their skill level.


Giving and Taking

Being prepared mentally for what may happen next when you are on the road, rather than relying on reactions to sort out a problem when it has already arisen, is a key factor in safe driving and riding.

By doing that you can also be prepared for what other road users around you might get wrong. Be ready to keep things safe by what you do to allow for them.

A bit of give and take goes a long way.

This is the opposite of the “blame culture”. Instead of mentally complaining because “that white van man just cut me up”, have a think about what you were doing before hand and what you could have done, if anything, in a different way to prevent that near miss happening.

The IAM researched this approach with Brunel University two years ago. Using two control groups of drivers, plus a third coached to IAM standards, Brunel were able to evaluate the difference this approach made.

Those drivers who were prepared to see themselves as part of the potential hazard were less likely to be involved in a crash or a near miss than the drivers who just “blamed” other road users around them.

Being alert to the possible mistakes of others may feel like a low priority when you are under pressure, or on a bad Monday morning perhaps. It’s easier to expect others to do what they should do, all the time.

But there is no such thing as the perfect driver. Do your bit by allowing for their errors. And, if that feel too onerous, think aboutthis: haven’t you, at some stage when you were driving made an error which someone else then made safe? Be honest – we all have.

So make a point of helping out the other road users who might do the same for you.

This article has been reproduced with the permission of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists)

Wearing a Seatbelt

It wasn’t until 1983 that it became compulsory for front seat passengers to use seatbelts, and road safety campaigners have marked the 25th anniversary of this important law.

Right from the start, compliance rates were high for front seat drivers, with over nine out of ten drivers and front seat passengers using their belts.

Yet when the law was extended to include rear seat passengers in 1991, the take up wasn’t nearly as good – and even now, more than a third of adults still decline to “belt up in the back”.

Technically, if your rear seat passenger is over the age of 14, it is their own responsibility to ensure they put the belt on.

Why they choose to ignore the belt is a bit of a mystery; perhaps teenagers think it doesn’t look “cool” to put on the seat belt. Or they think “we’re not going far, I won’t bother”, only pulling on the harness if they are preparing for a long motorway journey.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has a very creative TV ad that shows graphically the impact of a teenager not wearing his belt when his mum is involved in a crash – he flies forward and kills her. Yet rear seat belt compliance is still an issue, particularly among young adults.

When children stop using their booster seats, and start to “clunk click” for themselves, that’s a good idea to check the condition of the seat belt itself. If it is frayed or worn at all, it should be replaced. Give the belt a sharp tug to check that the inertia reel is still effective.

Then start to build into your “cockpit drill” (the safety checks you do before you actually drive off) a look behind to check that your rear seat passengers have actually put their belts on. You will probably find that this is done best by glancing around rather than peering awkwardly in the rear view mirror.

If your passengers (of any age) argue that it is their choice whether or not to wear the seat belt, you will find that your counter argument – that it’s your choice whether or not to start the car! – is pretty effective too.

This article has been reproduced with the permission of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists)