7 Scary Driving Situations And How To Handle Them

At some point in your life you’ll most likely experience some form of car trouble. Hopefully it is nothing major, but to be safe you should know the proper action to take in any situation.

We’ve gathered up some tips for how to keep yourself safe when driving.


We see carjackings on television all the time, but rarely do we witness the event in real life. But these crimes do happen, and in some places they have been on the rise. In Baltimore, carjacking rose over 42 percent in 2016 and over 224 percent from the year before.

If you ever find yourself in the scary situation of being carjacked, always comply and give up your car. No object is worth physical danger.

We hope you never need this information, but to aid in avoiding a carjacking situation, former LA police officer Kevin Coffey says, “Walk with purpose [to your car] and stay alert. Approach your car with the key in hand.

Back of car in traffic
NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Look around and inside the car before getting in. When you’re coming to a stop, leave enough room to maneuver around other cars, especially if you sense trouble and need to get away.” He writes in more detail of ways to avoid carjacking in this article, which could be helpful to prevent a carjacking situation—even if you think it would never happen to you.

Getting a Flat on the Highway

First, stay calm. As hard as that sounds, try to remember that first and foremost.

Picture this scenario: You’re driving on a highway in Los Angeles going about 75 mph when a 12-inch bolt pierces your back tire. Although the tire doesn’t blow out, it goes flat right away. What should you do?

If you want to stay safe, follow the guidelines in this article: Slow down but don’t immediately slam on your brakes. Grip the steering wheel extra tight since it will probably be more difficult to maneuver. When it is safe to do so, change lanes until you can pull on to the side of the road and be out of traffic (if you can help it, do not stop in traffic, and try to pull onto a flat and even surface).

Once safely on the side of the road or highway, turn on your emergency flashers and call a service like AAA for help, if you need it.

If you know how to change your tire (which you really should learn to do), proceed with extra caution because standing on any side of the vehicle can be dangerous due to other cars, traffic, and debris. It is best to stay inside your vehicle if you’re waiting for help to arrive.

Car Submersion in Water

This is something you don’t ever really plan for, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with flash floods or if you live next to a body of water.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that an average of 384 people die every year from car submersion deaths. If you ever find yourself in a situation where your car ends up in water, there are a few procedures to take to ensure your safety.

First, try to roll your window down as soon as possible. Once the car’s battery gets submerged, the power will go out and you won’t be able to control anything electrical inside your vehicle, including the windows and possibly the locks.

Underwater bubbles
will terra on Unsplash

The doors will be practically impossible to open while water is flooding in, so try to escape through the window. If it won’t roll down, the easiest place to break a window is in the corners, not straight on. As for your seatbelt, if it gets locked, try to use a key to tear it or slide out if possible.


First things first, in order to try and prevent hydroplaning you should keep an eye on the tread on your tires.

To do this, take a quarter and turn it upside down and stick in in the treads of your tires. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, then your tires should be replaced; if his head is hidden by the depth of the tread, then you’re safe. (This test used to be done with a penny but according to Car and Driver, the quarter is the new standard.)

Now if you happen to hydroplane, as with all of these situations, stay calm. A lot of people want to slam on their brakes, but that will cause a sudden spin out, so try to just gain control of the steering wheel and guide your car without jerking the wheel.

If you have front wheel drive and/or antilock braking and traction control, then ease on the accelerator to a safe area until you gain control. If you have rear wheel drive, then do not accelerate and let the car’s momentum run out as you guide it to safety.

Skidding on Ice

For most people in most parts of the country, at some point it’s important to know what to do if you happen to find yourself skidding on an ice patch. When driving in snowy conditions, try to let your car idle to a stop rather than hitting the brakes.

It is best to tap the brakes to a gentle stop rather than forcing it, because that could induce a slide. Give yourself more time to come to a stop (about 8 to 10 seconds versus the normal 4 to 6 seconds).

Car on icy, snowy road
sam medve on Unsplash

The author of this article explains how braking should be done in a straight line before going into a turn: “The weight differential all shifts to the front of the vehicle (when braking) and if you steer a bit too sharply, because there’s less weight at the back of the vehicle, it could cause your car to fishtail.”

If your car begins to slide, turn the wheel in the direction of the slide. Even if you’re making a right turn, but you skid left, turn the wheel left. If all else fails, you can put your car in neutral to try and help slow it down.

Brakes Going Out

If you’re driving at any speed and your brakes go out, it will surely be a scary moment, but we’ve got some tips for that too. Keep tapping on your brakes; it could be that the pads are worn and the fluid is out so if you continue to pump the brake pedal you might eventually kick them into gear.

If they’re completely gone, shift your car into neutral and try to maneuver into the right-hand lane, where you can eventually slow down. If you don’t have a lot of room to come to a stop, pull your emergency brake in one motion (pumping it could lead to losing control of the vehicle).

If all else fails, gently drive into a stationary object or find another way to slow your car down. Yes, you’ll do some damage to the exterior of the car, but at least you limit the chances of serious injury, hitting another vehicle, or doing more damage to the engine. You should keep an ear out for squeaky brakes and get them replaced every 50,000 miles.

Car on Fire

Although this might sound extreme, according to the National Fire Protection Association, there are 33 car fires every hour in the United States. Most car fires are caused by fuel line malfunctions or split fuel pipes, so be sure to get your car checked at least once a year to make sure everything is in working order, especially if you have an older car.

Parked car on fire
Flavio Gasperini on Unsplash

The first thing to do if you see your car begin to emit flames is pull over (if you haven’t already pulled over because of the smoke), put your car in park, and turn off your engine immediately. Once you turn the engine off the fuel will stop flowing, which can help keep the car from an all out explosion.

A lot of people understandably panic, but when they pull over they just leap out of their vehicle, which is still in drive and the car begins to roll forward. If your car is just smoking from the front, you can open the hood very slowly, but be careful as oxygen can cause a fire to expand rapidly. If you see flames, get at least 150 feet back and call 911.

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