If brakes fail while driving, change gear and apply the handbrake. You must do several things at once: take your foot off the accelerator, flick the switch of your warning lights,pump the footbrake rapidly (it may still connect), change down through the gears and apply handbrake pressure. Don’t slam the brake on, begin with gentle bursts, gradually braking harder until you stop.
If there is no time for all this, take your foot off the accelerator and change down through the gears and grab the handbrake – but DON”T apply maximum pressure until you are sure that you won’t skid. Look out for escape lanes and places where you can leave the road, preferably a soft bank or turning that has an uphill slope.
If speed remains unchecked on a steep hill for example, brush the car along a hedge or wall to reduce speed. Take advantage of a vehicle in front and use it to stop you – run into it it as gently as the situation allows. Use warning lights, blow your horn and flash your headlights to give the driver in front as much warning as possible that you are on a collision course.
If collision seems inevitable, stay with it and steer the car to do as little damage to others and yourself as possible. Try to avoid a sudden stop by driving into something which will give. A fence is better than a wall, a clump of small saplings better than a tree – they will eventually stop you, but a tree or wall will bring you to a dead stop and probably make you very dead as well.
Seat belts (compulsory in many countries) will help stop you plunging forward through the windscreen, but unbelted it is better NOT to try to brace yourself against a collision. In the rare exception bracing may work, but generally it means only that when the car stops you continue traveling, doing even more damage than if you had gone with the collision, because your deceleration on impact is more sudden. Throw your arms around your head to protect it and twist sideways, away from the steering wheel while flinging yourself TOWARDS the point of collision. It sounds difficult but on collision that steering wheel is like a ram in front of your ribcage.
Back seat passengers should similarly protect their heads and lie against the back of the front seats.
Do NOT try to jump out of a runaway car unless you know it is headed for a cliff or other substantial drop and you will not survive the impact. Then open the door, undo safety belt, begin to roll yourself into a ball, tuck the head tightly into the chest, bring feet and knees together, tightly tuck elbows inside the sides, hands up by the ears, bend at the waist. Then drop from the car in a rolling movement. Do not resist the ground but keep balled up and continue the roll.
Car under water:
If possible abandon the car before it sinks, for it will not sink immediately and will take time to fill. Water pressure on the outside makes it very difficult to open the door so roll down the window if you can and wriggle out of it. It takes great presence of mind to manage that when subject to the shock and surprise of the ‘splash down’, but if there are small children in the car it may be possible to push one through. Do not try to save possessions.
If you have electric windows and they have shorted out, get children to stand and to lift any babies near to the roof. Release seat belts and tell everyone by a door to be ready with a hand on the handle. Release at once any automatic door locks. Water could prevent them from working – do not attempt to open doors at this stage.
As water fills the interior, air will be trapped near the roof. The water pressure inside the car will nearly equalise the pressure with that of the water outside the car. As the car comes to rest and is nearly full of water tell everyone to take a deep breath, open the doors and swim to the surface, breathing out as they do so. Everyone leaving through the same door should link arms. If you have to wait for someone to get out before you, hold your breath for that moment.
PRECAUTION: Always park alongside water, not running towards it. If you have to park a car facing water then leave it in reverse gear and with the handbrake on (if facing away from water, in first gear with the handbrake on).
Car on railway tracks:
If a car breaks down on an unmanned level crossing, put it into gear and use the starter motor to jerk it clear. This will work with a manual gear change but not an automatic. If a train is approaching abandon the car, carry children or infirm persons to safety and keep away – about 45 metres, (50 yards) should be far enough, for if the train is traveling at high speed it could fling car wreckage quite a distance.
If there is no train visible, or you can see one several miles in the distance, you must try to avert the collision. If the car can be moved by pushing, push it clear of all tracks, as you cannot be sure which one the train will be on. If there is an emergency telephone warn signalmen further down the track of the situation. If not, walk up the track towards the train. Stand well to one side (high speed trains have quite a slipstream) and wave a car blanket or bright coloured garment to warn the driver. If he is doing his job properly he will know that he is approaching a crossing and should look ahead to see that all is clear.