Lesson 12 Summary

Next Stop...The Blueprint Fire Station

The Blueprint Fire Station is the perfect place to stop and talk about hazardous situations and safety. If you are ever involved in a hazardous situation where you are unable to avoid disaster, it is the fire fighters and paramedics that will most likely come to your rescue! In this lesson we will be reviewing how to safely handle different types of hazardous situations that you may experience out on the roadway. As we have discussed in previous lessons, being aware of your surroundings and using the MADE process can help you minimize your risk in many hazardous situations. However, in some situations being aware of your surroundings may not be enough to avoid disaster. Sometimes, as you are about to learn, there are other things you can do when an unpredictable hazard presents itself.


At the Blueprint Fire Station we are going to take a look at:

Vehicle malfunctions

The most important thing you can do to avoid vehicle malfunctions is to maintain your vehicle in good working condition.  You, as a driver, have the responsibility to check your tires, change your oil, listen for unusual noises, and look for potential fluid leaks.  There are other times in which your vehicle may not provide you with a visual or audible symptom resulting in a vehicle emergency.  Let's take a look at some of the potential hazards that may present themselves as a vehicle emergency.

Tire failure

Tires are such a major part of your vehicle’s performance that you need to be especially cautious of maintaining your tires in good working condition.  Tire life is shortened by such things as:

What happens if you have a tire blowout?

If your tire blows out you may hear a loud pop, a repeated thumping sound, or you may suddenly feel your vehicle pulling heavily to one side. If this occurs you need to do the following:

Once you are safely off the roadway, you need to change the tire or call for assistance.  If you are unable to call for assistance, you’ll need to change the tire.  Here’s what you should do:

You’ll need to head to a tire store to get your tire replaced as soon as possible.  You don’t want to be riding on a spare for too long.  You also shouldn’t drive any faster than 50 mph on a spare, so try to stay off the expressways if at all possible. If you have to travel on an expressway where the posted speed limit is faster than 50 mph, stay in the far right lane and keep your hazard lights on.

Brake failure

Vehicles have a two-part braking system so that if one brake system fails, the other brakes can be used to stop the vehicle.  There is a brake warning light (on your dash board/control panel) that will come on to let you know if you have brake failure.

Total brake failure…This rarely occurs unless you are in extreme conditions and attempt to brake hard to stop.  If both of your braking systems fail, follow these steps:

If you have power brakes, push the brakes as hard as you can. Even if the engine stops, you still have brakes.

Other brake failures

Overheating brakes or “brake fade” is when too much heat causes brakes to lose their effectiveness.  You need to get off the road immediately and pull over to let your brakes cool down.  If you continue to drive with overheated brakes, you may warp your rotors and cause uneven braking problems.

Driving through water can also cause brakes to fail.  Once you get out of the water, you will need to tap brakes frequently to cause friction and dry the pads.  Check to make sure that your brakes are again working.

Accelerator malfunctions

Accelerator malfunctioning can occur if the spring that allows the accelerator pedal to gradually move up and down breaks. A broken accelerator spring is a major problem and could cause your pedal to not depress or return properly.  That means that you are not in control of your speed.  Here’s what you need to do:

Another accelerator malfunction can occur if your accelerator gets stuck. Sometimes you may have a problem with the accelerator not returning back up and the engine continues to rev (increase speed) and not return to the idle position.  Here’s what you need to do:

Engine failure

What are you going to do if your engine suddenly fails on you without warning?

Engine failure can also occur if your engine floods.   Engine flooding occurs when there is a lack of oxygen entering the engine while gas continues to flood into the engine. This may cause your vehicle to turn off or be unable to start.

Here’s what you need to do if this happens:

What should you do if your engine overheats?

At times, extremely hot weather or other engine problems may cause your vehicle to overheat.  If you have your air conditioner running, especially climbing uphill, you can overheat your engine.  If your engine overheats, here’s what you need to do:

Steering failure

If you experience total steering failure, follow these steps…

What if you have power steering and that fails?

Power steering failure usually occurs if your engine dies, if you don’t have power steering fluid, or if a drive belt breaks.  With power steering failure you can still steer your vehicle but you need to put a lot of muscle into the process because it is very difficult to manually steer a vehicle that has no power.

Loss of forward vision

Let's take a look at some of the things that can cause you to lose your forward vision.

What if your hood suddenly flies up and blocks your front vision?

What if your headlights don’t work?

What if your window is splashed by water or mud?

Dealing with a vehicle on fire

Vehicle fires can occur for any number of reasons and they are very dangerous and should always be treated with extreme caution.  If possible you should carry an A-B-C type of fire extinguisher in your vehicle.

If the fire begins in the engine compartment...

If you can see where the fire originated from and that the fire is well contained and small, you may try to follow these steps:

What if the fire is actually inside the passenger compartment (inside the vehicle)?

Many times fires are caused inside a vehicle by cigarettes or cigarette lighters. Sometimes improper wiring or other electrical problems can also cause fires inside the vehicle. If you have water or a fire extinguisher handy, you can try to put out the fire.  Do not try to smother it with a cloth; you may end up creating a bigger fire. If you are unable to put out the fire, pull over immediately and move as far away from traffic or other objects as possible and call 911 for help.

Vehicles on railroad tracks

If you stall on a railroad track, follow these steps:

Driver errors

Since driver errors are things that you can control, you need to develop automatic behaviors to reduce your risk for error on the roadway. What are some of the things that can help you minimize risk? This would be a good time to think back to the MADE process. Let's take a look at some situations in which driver error may cause potentially hazardous situations.

What do you do if you drive off the road?

DO NOT PANIC! When the tires on one side of your vehicle leave the roadway and end up on the shoulder, that side is at a lower ground level then the other side of your vehicle making your vehicle appear to be driving lopsided. If your vehicle does go off the roadway, you need to slow down as softer ground on one side of your vehicle may cause you to skid. Don’t try to get back onto the roadway immediately because this may cause your vehicle to roll or tip over.  Wait until the roadway is more level with the shoulder or until the shoulder is on harder ground.

Here are some good steps to getting your vehicle back on the road.

Emergency swerving

Swerving, especially in heavy traffic, is dangerous. You should try to avoid swerving into other lanes or into the path of traffic. However, there may be instances were you have no other option but to swerve in order to avoid a hazardous situation.  Swerving is your second choice if you cannot brake in time. The best prevention is to use your MADE process continuously and give yourself enough of a following distance to prevent making last minute decisions.

Let's talk about the “Stop-swerve decision”

This is not an easy decision to make; it comes down to whether or not stopping versus swerving to miss something is more beneficial.  If you need to stop suddenly, you may risk the chance that your vehicle will actually turn sideways.  This can create another hazardous situation.  If you swerve, you need to be sure that you have a clear zone to do so otherwise you may cause a collision.

How to execute an emergency swerve.

How do you know how sharply to swerve?

The sharpness of a swerve depends on how close you are to the hazard, your speed, and your distance.  If you have your speed under control it will be easier to execute the swerve and maintain control of your vehicle. Remember...

Speed is a controllable factor!

Speed is a controllable factor!

Speed is a controllable factor!


Stay away from roadway hazards


Potholes can cause a lot of damage to your tires and cause you to lose control of your vehicle.  If you need to drive partly into another lane to avoid a pothole, be sure to check your zones first before doing so.  If you cannot avoid a pothole, try to slow down as much as possible before hitting it.

Sharp curves

What if you see an object in your path on the roadway?

Don’t take any chances with objects in the roadway, even if they look harmless.  For example, if you see a box in the road, you may think it’s probably empty, but what if it isn’t?  Avoid running over ANY object in the road.  Use your MADE process and identify this early on so that you can execute the right move.

What if you come upon a puddle of water in the roadway?

If you don’t know how deep the water on the road is, avoid driving through it.  If you end up driving through very deep water and get stuck in a sinking vehicle, follow these steps:


If you see yourself getting ready to be in an unavoidable collision, follow these steps:

Head-on collisions

Head-on collisions are very serious and you need to do everything in your power to avoid hitting another vehicle head on.

Side collisions

Rear-end collisions

Checking your rear zones, especially at intersections, is important to avoiding rear-end collisions.  If you see a potential rear-end collision, follow these steps:

Remember that keeping a 4-second following distance is important to maintaining a proper stopping distance and avoiding a rear end collision. Even if another vehicle rear ends yo, u a 4-second following distance will usually keep you from being pushed into the vehicle in front of you.

What to do if you have a collision.

When you are stuck in a hazardous situation, remember that using the MADE process, following the posted speed limit and keeping a 4-second or greater following distance can help you avoid danger. If danger cannot be avoided, it is important to make sure you are wearing your seat belt! Don't be another statistic...stay safe and follow the rules of the road!