The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

California DMV Offers Tips on Steering to Avoid a Road Hazard

February 25, 2009

SACRAMENTO, CA --- Stopping isn't always the safest thing to do in an emergency situation on the road. The California Department of Motor Vehicles offers a number of driving tips for those times when your fleet drivers don't have enough room to stop and have to rely on steering skills to avoid an accident. 

Remember, you can almost always turn to miss an obstacle more quickly than you can stop. However, top-heavy vehicles and tractors with multiple trailers may flip over.

Here are some tips from the California DMV:

-- Keep both hands on the steering wheel. In order to turn quickly, you must grip the steering wheel firmly with both hands. Make a habit of having both hands on the wheel at all times. Then if there is an emergency, you will be prepared.

-- A quick turn can be made safely, if it is done the right way. Here are some points that safe drivers use:

  • Do not apply the brakes while you are turning. It is very easy to lock your wheels while turning. If that happens, you will be skidding out of control before you know it.
  • Do not turn any more than needed to clear whatever is in your way. The more sharply you turn, the greater the chances of a skid or rollover.
  • Be prepared to "countersteer" (turn the wheel back in the other direction), once you have passed whatever was in your path. Unless you are prepared to countersteer, you will not be able to do it quickly enough. You should think of emergency steering and countersteering as two parts of one driving action.

-- If an oncoming driver has drifted into your lane, a move to your right is best. If that driver realizes what has happened, the natural response will be to return to his or her own lane.

-- If something is blocking your path, the best thing to do will depend on the situation:

  • If you have been using your mirrors, you will know which lane is empty and can be safely used.
  • If the shoulder is clear, steering to the right may be best. No one is likely to be driving on the shoulder but someone may be passing you on the left. You will know if you have been using your mirrors
  • If you are blocked on both sides, a move to the right may be best. At least you will not force anyone into an opposing traffic lane and a possible head-on accident. If a stopped vehicle is in front of you, a lane change may be better than running directly into it.

-- In some emergencies, you may have to drive off the road. It may be less risky than facing an accident with another vehicle.

Most shoulders are strong enough to support the weight of a large vehicle and, therefore, offer an available escape route. Here are some guidelines if you do leave the road:

  • Avoid braking. If possible, avoid using the brakes until your speed has dropped to about 20 mph. Then brake very gently to avoid skidding on a loose surface.
  • Keep one set of wheels on the pavement if possible. This helps to maintain control.
  • Stay on the shoulder. If the shoulder is clear, stay on it until your vehicle has come to a stop. Signal and check your mirrors before pulling back onto the road.

-- If you are forced to return to the road before you can stop, use the following procedure:

  • Hold the wheel tightly and turn sharply enough to get right back on the road safely. Don't try to edge gradually back onto the road. If you do, your tires might grab unexpectedly and you could lose control.
  • When both front tires are on the paved surface, countersteer immediately. The two turns should be made as a single "steer countersteer" move.
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