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Tips to prevent over-correcting

by Tom Chillemi

Many head-on crashes are the result of the wheels of a car dropping off the right side of a road, explained First Sergeant Kevin Barrick of the Virginia State Police’s Gloucester office.

Some drivers who drop their right side wheels off the road will over-correct and turn sharply to get the car back on the pavement, Sgt. Barrack said. This can result in the vehicle traveling into the oncoming lane or running off the other side of the road. These types of crashes occur frequently on two-lane roads.

Sgt. Barrick shared the following driving tips that are part of troopers’ driver training.

Don’t panic
“If a wheel happens to drop off the paved surface of a roadway, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. This is necessary to keep the vehicle traveling straight ahead while straddling the pavement edge,” Barrick emphasized. “You will need to fight the tendency of the wheels to pull to the right if the shoulder is soft. You must also resist any immediate urge to whip the vehicle back onto the pavement.”

Ease off
The next step, he said, is to ease off the accelerator, causing the vehicle to slow down gradually. “Avoid braking if possible, but if necessary use a gradual braking method, which will enable you to maintain control.

“Slow down until you can safely return to the road, by firmly turning the steering wheel as little as needed to get your vehicle back on the pavement; or, stay off the pavement until a driveway or other surface allows a gradual return.”

Be smooth
The idea is to be smooth, both when braking or turning. A vehicle’s weight and momentum must be kept under control. If wheels drop off the pavement in a curve, the driver has to counteract centrifugal force that pushes the vehicle toward the outside of a turn.

Watch out
Places were drivers commonly run off the road may be identified by the gravel that has been put in the off-road ruts that wheels have dug. Be alert when traveling these sections. As an old safety slogan put it, “Watch out for the other guy.”

Of course, it is best to pay attention and not run off the road, said Sgt. Barrick, but if you do, these safety techniques could save you from a crash.

Distracted driving is a concern
The United States Department of Transportation defines three main types of distracted driving: Visual, manual and cognitive. Texting is considered one of the more dangerous forms of distracted driving because it involves all three main types. To text, drivers must take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel and their mind off of driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that distracted driving is a significant concern, as 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. Eighteen percent of fatalities in distraction-related crashes involved reports of a cell phone as the distraction.  Metro

posted 11.02.2011

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