How to Handle 7 Unexpected Driving Situations

Most days, driving is pretty uneventful. You may feel like you have it down pat. The catch is — you never know when something unexpected is going to happen. An animal could wander into the road, your tire could blow out, or you could end up hitting a huge pothole. If you find yourself in a dangerous scenario, it's important to know how to respond. To help you prepare, here's a quick guide to seven unexpected driving situations.

1. Hydroplaning

When driving in the rain, snow, or sleet, you run the risk of hydroplaning (losing traction which causes you to skid). If this happens to you, remain calm and DON'T slam on your brakes. Instead, ease off the gas and gently steer in the direction of the skid. Turning into the skid aligns your wheels with the direction you're headed to help you regain control. If you need to slow down and have anti-lock brakes, you can brake as normal. If you don't, pump the brakes lightly. 

How can you prevent hydroplaning? Keep up on your tire maintenance, drive slowly through avoid pooling water, and reduce your speed when the ground is wet. 

2. Animals in the Road

Another potential hazard most drivers will encounter sooner or later is an animal on the road. In town, it may be something smaller like a dog, squirrel, or family of ducks. However, as you get out of town, you can encounter larger animals like deer or cattle.

If an animal ends up in your line of travel, brake firmly and stay in your lane. If you can stop in time, turn on your hazard lights and wait for the animal to move out of the way. You may want to honk to move things along. 

If you're going to hit an animal, release the brake right before the impact so the nose of your vehicle comes back up. This helps to prevent the animal from flying through your windshield. You should then get to a safe place and report the incident to the police. 

3. Tire Blowout

Tire blowouts can be scary because they often happen while vehicles are traveling at high speeds. If your tire blows out, you'll likely hear a loud boom, your car will slow down, and it'll begin to pull to the side. Don't brake hard or overcorrect by steering hard the other way. 

Instead, try to steer as straight as possible, gradually slow down, turn on your emergency lights, and pull over to a safe place. You'll then need to change the tire or get a tow, depending on the damage. 

Blowouts are typically caused by underinflated tires. You can help to prevent them by regularly checking your tire pressure and ensuring it's at the right level.

4. Sun Glare

The sun can be blinding, particularly during sunrise and sunset. If you need to drive during these times, you and other drivers will likely experience reduced visibility. As a result, it's a good idea to drive at a slower speed and increase your following distance. Additionally, it can help to use your sun visor, wear polarized glasses, and keep your windshield and windows clean. 

5. Fog

Fog also reduces your ability to see while on the road. In some cases, you may not even be able to see the tail lights on the car in front of you. This can be very dangerous as it gives you less time to respond, especially when traveling at high speeds. Massive freeway pileups have resulted from dense fog.

If you encounter fog, slow down, increase your following distance, and use extra caution. It's also important to use your low beams as high beams reflect off the dampened air and blind other drivers. 

6. Potholes

Driving over potholes can cause all sorts of damage to your vehicle. To avoid them, keep your eyes on the road and maintain a large enough following distance to see them coming. When you spot one, carefully maneuver around it. Also, watch out for puddles and ensure your tires are fully inflated.

If you need to drive through a pothole, slow down and keep a tight grip on your steering wheel. 

7. Dangerous Drivers

Lastly, what if you're driving and another driver is exhibiting worrisome behavior like swerving, aggressive tailgating, driving too fast, or driving too slow? In these situations, it's best to keep a safe distance from the driver. If they're posing a danger to you and others, take note of the vehicle and license plate and report them to the police as soon as possible. 

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Updated 1/24/23