HOW TO RECOVER FROM DRIVING ONTO THE SHOULDER OF THE ROAD
A Canadian Direct Insurance Claim:
A Canadian Direct customer was driving south on Hwy. 19, when one of the tires on the passenger side of the car went on to gravel shoulder - he had drifted onto the shoulder of the road. The customer lost control and went into a ditch. There was damage to the left front side of the car, the suspension, and all the tires were blown out.
Could This Accident Have Been Avoided?
Did you know that over one-third of all single car crashes occur like this? And the number of them that result in serious injuries is staggering. So, how would you handle this kind of situation?
Imagine, you're driving 80 KMH down a highway. You look down for a second to grab a cassette tape, when all of a sudden you realise you've steered your right side tires onto the gravel shoulder. What would you do?
Would you try to get the car slowed down as fast as possible by hitting the brakes? How about trying to get the car back on the pavement as fast as possible by quickly steering back to the left?
Judging from the number of these types of crashes, those are the most common "corrections" people use. Often, they use both of them at the same time - hit the brakes while swerving back to the left. And, they usually end up either rolling their vehicle or hitting something on the other side of the road.
In fact, you may be surprised to hear that most crashes involving the right shoulder of the road do not include hitting anything on the right or going into the ditch on that side. No, they usually involve hitting something to the left - an on-coming vehicle, guardrail or mountain face way over on the other side of the road!
So, if braking and steering back on the road isn't the right thing to do, what is?
Well, very little. Just steer the car straight along the shoulder, letting the right side tires run in the gravel, while slowly easing off the gas pedal. Do not brake. Once you've slowed down by coasting, then very gently ease the car back to the left, being careful the tires don't get hooked on the pavement edge.
The important thing to remember is: it won't hurt one little bit to drive with the right side tires on the gravel shoulder. In fact, you could drive for kilometres and kilometres on the shoulder of the road (no, I'm not recommending that!).
I understand that it is human nature to want to get back on the road immediately. But by hitting the brakes or swerving back immediately, you're more likely to send the car out of control. So, again, relax and steer straight along the shoulder of the road, while easing off the gas pedal. Then, when the car is slowed down and you feel completely under control, gently ease the car back on the road.
So, how does a car end up on the left side of the road after driving on the right shoulder? If you try to steer back to the left too quickly, one of two things may happen. As you bring the front end back on the pavement, you now have two front tires with traction and only one rear with traction - causing the car to spin directly back across the road. Or, the tires may hook on the edge of the pavement, possibly causing the car to roll.
Let's review what you should do. To control a vehicle you've accidentally driven onto the shoulder of the road, steer along the edge of the road, ease off the gas pedal, and then when you feel you have your vehicle completely under control, gently steer back on the roadway.
The important thing to remember if you should ever end up on the far right side of the road is that the gravel shoulder will not hurt you. Trying to get back on the pavement too quickly probably will.