Advanced Driving Techniques
Running Off The Road

Running Off The Road: Recovery Techniques for Emergency Driving Situations

Updated Dec. 14, 2020

Hazardous conditions may result in your vehicle running partially or completely off the road. Drivers must know what to do under such circumstances, to limit the severity of the incident and bring their vehicle back under control. The information in this module will help you.

Step-by-step instructions

If your car’s right wheels leave the road, use the following steps to regain control:

  1. 1

    Grasp the steering wheel firmly with both hands and DO NOT TURN.

  2. 2

    Release the accelerator. Let your speed drop to five to 10 mph.

  3. 3

    Scan ahead for a level point where you can safely re-enter the road.

  4. 4

    Check for traffic approaching from behind and activate your left turn indicator.

  5. 5

    At this reduced speed, when the road is clear, steer sharply left to bring your right front tire back on the pavement.

  6. 6

    When this happens, immediately counter-steer sharply to the right.

  7. 7

    Reposition your car within the lane, deactivate your turn signal and continue driving.

Staying calm

As with all driving emergencies, the first thing you should do when you realize your vehicle has started to leave the roadway is to remain calm. Allowing yourself to panic will result in hasty action which could end up making the situation much worse.

If your right wheels have dropped off the roadway and you react in panic by steering sharply to the left, your vehicle is likely to swing left, cross the center line and roll toward the opposite roadside. Many fatal accidents occur because of panic-steering when a vehicle is moving at speed.

Rapid off-roadway recovery

Drivers may sometimes need to take immediate action without slowing down if their right wheels leave the roadway and they are heading for an obstruction. If a tree or a post is in your path, you will not have time to reduce your speed or look for an ideal re-entry spot, before making an evasive maneuver. Obviously, this makes regaining control of your vehicle back on the roadway even more of a challenge.

While you must act quickly, it is still vital to check for traffic and signal left before rejoining the road, as you may otherwise endanger other drivers. Having conducted this check, steer sharply left, followed by sharply right the very moment your right front wheel is back on the pavement.

Moving disabled vehicles off the road

When your vehicle leaves the roadway completely due to loss of control or mechanical failure, you must act to reduce the severity of the accident. Take your foot off the gas pedal to reduce speed as much as possible but do not slam on the brakes. Road shoulders are often surfaced with gravel or another poor-traction material – the last thing you want to do is hit it at speed and lock your wheels by braking too hard.

Begin to brake gently when your speed has dropped, if braking is necessary. Otherwise, allow your vehicle to slow down gradually and roll to a natural stop. Make sure you activate your hazard lights or use flares to warn other drivers that your car is disabled on the shoulder. Seek assistance and have your disabled vehicle removed from the highway as soon as possible.

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