■ Metro Service / Contributed
Sudden car trouble is something no driver wants to experience, but many drivers have been driving down the highway only to feel his or her vehicle start to sputter. Such sputtering might indicate a car is running low on fuel, or it could be a sign of something more serious that requires motorists to think as quickly and safely as possible.
When car trouble strikes while a vehicle is on the road, the first thing many drivers do is check their fuel gauges. A car that runs out of gas is certainly inconvenient, but if you can pull over to the shoulder or make it to the nearest filling station, then this unfortunate situation can be remedied rather easily. But when a car’s tank is full and it is still showing signs of trouble, drivers must take steps to protect themselves, their passengers and their vehicles. The following are a few simple tips motorists should keep in mind so they can safely handle any car trouble that may arise while they are out on the road.
Keep a first-aid kit, spare tire and tire jack in the car at all times. Flat tires are no fun, but they are even more of a nuisance when drivers are not prepared to address them. Always keep a jack and spare tire in your car, even if the spare is a donut you can temporarily use to replace a flat tire until you make it to a filling station or automotive supply store. As an added safety measure, keep a fully stocked first aid kit in your vehicle in case you cut yourself while changing the tire or need to address another medical situation. Visit www.redcross.org for a list of items to include in your automotive emergency kit. Keep a blanket in the trunk as well so your passengers can stay warm should you experience car trouble on a cold day or night.
Make note of your surroundings. Some car troubles can only be fixed by the professionals, so pay careful attention to your surroundings in case an issue arises and forces you to pull over and call for help. Always pay attention to mile markers and any landmarks that might help you describe where you are. Car troubles can strike at any time and anywhere, so be sure to pay special attention to your surroundings when driving in unfamiliar areas.
Pull over. Don’t panic if an issue arises suddenly. Remain calm and pull over onto the shoulder. The right shoulder is the area for pulling over on most roads, but you may also use the left shoulder on multilane highways with medians. Try to get as far away from traffic as possible without driving off of level ground, and always use your signals when pulling onto the shoulder. If the vehicle can’t make it to the median, put your emergency flashers on and get out of the car, moving away from both the vehicle and traffic. Immediately call for emergency roadside assistance, alerting the authorities if need be.
Use flares or triangles to alert other drivers. So long as you are not risking your well-being, you can place flares and/or warning triangles behind your vehicle so oncoming traffic knows to drive around it. The popular not-for-profit motor club AAA recommends placing the first flare or triangle 10 feet directly behind the side of the vehicle that is closest to the road. The second should be placed between 30 and 60 feet (increase the distances as the posted speed limit increases) behind the middle of the bumper, while the third flare or triangle should be placed between 120 and 360 feet behind the vehicle’s right side.
Stay with the vehicle. Once you have called for help and set up flares or triangles, stay with the vehicle, though do so at a safe enough distance so you are not in harm’s way.
Sudden car troubles can be scary, but drivers who approach such issues calmly and quickly can reduce their risk for accident or injury.