Although life on the edge may sound exciting, it is often more deadly than you would realize, noted J. Peter Kissinger recently of the American Automobile Assn.’s Foundation for Traffic Safety.
President of the traffic safety foundation, Kissinger recently noted that delayed or denied roadway maintenance can prove harmful or fatal to some drivers. Or, as he told, AAA Horizons, “…anyone who has ever driven off the edge of the road where the pavement suddenly drops away knows driving on the edge can be frightening and dangerous.”
If a road is not maintained properly and end abruptly in ragged edges, a car can:
- Become uncontrollable
- Spin or even flip over
even as drivers try to regain control by using the brakes and grabbing the wheel.
This has been an especially tough year on the nation’s roadways, as weather observers have noted, the country has had:
- Extreme temperature ranges
- Extreme weather changes
- Record flooding
Weather extremes caused problems
For the driver, this means, Kissinger emphasized, many roads may now have extreme dropoffs because extremely cold weather last winter that became almost overnight extremely warm weather has caused road edges to crumble and crack. “Sometimes the height difference between a road and the shoulder can be eight or nine inches, creating a dramatic drop when you go off the edge,” the safety group president noted.
Often, he noted, this type of accident can happen quite suddenly as a driver fails to realize the roadside has shifted abruptly. “When they realize what has happened, some people react with alarm by jerking the steering wheel and trying to force their vehicles back onto the road.”
This is not the way to handle things, he noted, because “oversteering can send cars flying into other lanes,” he emphasized.
Because the weather has caused road edges to crumble and crack, Kissinger noted, that debris and road damage can:
- Damage tires
- Cause blowouts
- Destabilize the vehicle
Crashes that resulted from what the AAA safety group terms “run-off-road” incdents” are particularly dangerous, the group noted.
A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety “showed that these crashes are more than twice as likely to be fatal in comparison to other crashes and such incidents account for about 40 percent of fatal crashes nationwide.”
To improve your chances of surviving this type of crash, Kissinger noted, that “knowing how to manage pavement drop-offs is an important skill every driver should learn.”
Controlling a ‘run-off-road’ situation
Here’s how to control a “run-off-road” situation:
- Don’t panic and don’t try to force your car back on the road. “Jerking the steering wheel to get back on the road can make you lose control of the vehicle and careen into traffic,” Kissinger noted.
- Get off the accelerator and ease up; press the brake gently to slow down. And, assuming your car still has two wheels on the road and two over the edge if you brake suddenly when “your tires are on two different surfaces (it) can cause you to skid.”
- Keep looking at the road ahead because you have to make sure the road ahead is clear.
- Drive your car completely off the roadway and onto the shoulder and stop if there’s enough room. “Take a minute to calm down before returning to the roadway,” Kissinger emphasized.
- Slowing down, be sure you straddle the pavement if you cannot leave the roadway completely. “This will help you avoid scrubbing your tires on the edge of the pavement, which can make it difficult to return to the roadway safely,” the AAA official noted.
Getting back into traffic
- Be sure the road is clear in all lanes and when it is and you see a large gap in traffic you can begin to get back on the pavement slowly, a wheel-at-a-time. “Once all four wheels are on pavement adjust the steering wheel again to align yourself in the lane,” Kissinger continued.
- Stop at the nearest service station or area and check your wheels and tires for scrapes, damage and roadside debris.
Perhaps the best way to avoid problems like road drop-offs is to “minimize distraction and pay attention while driving. Looking away from the road to change a CD, adjust a GPS or grab a bit of lunch — even for a few second — can distract you enough to leave your lane,” Kissinger emphasized, “and go off the road before you even realize what happened. Stay focused while driving at all times to avoid running off the road.”
Kissinger emphasized that if “you do find yourself going off the road, remember that staying calm and folowing these few simple steps will have you bck on your way safely.”
(Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)