What To Do If Your Brakes Fail

You’re driving along on the freeway when suddenly you hit the brakes and nothing happens. There’s probably no situation for a driver more scary and dangerous than this, but fortunately, there are steps you can take to come to a safe stop and reduce your chances of being in an accident. They include:

Don’t panic. Panic will only cause you to not think clearly, so try to remain calm.

• Move your car out of the flow of traffic. Do this by moving your car to the right shoulder. If you are near an exit, try to reach it. Follow normal driving rules when moving out of the traffic flow, including checking your mirrors for safe lane changes and using turn indicators to signal a lane change. You should also turn on your emergency hazard lights to alert other drivers that you are having car trouble.

• Slow your car down. You can slow your car down by gradually taking your foot off the gas pedal and shifting the car into a lower gear.

• Gradually apply the parking brake. When you are safely out of traffic, shift your car into neutral and gradually apply the parking brake until the car stops. If the parking brake also does not work, there are ways to help the car stop. One way is to move the car onto a soft shoulder, like a grassy area next to the road. Another way is to gently rub the wheels against a curb or other barrier.

• Flag down help. Once your car has stopped and you are away from other vehicles, flag down help. If you don’t have a cell phone to summon help, raise your hood or tie something to the antenna so police officers and tow truck drivers will see you need assistance. Most major highways are patrolled regularly, so you should not have to wait long for help to arrive.

• Don’t drive without the brakes. Now that you are stopped, you may be tempted to drive very slowly to the nearest gas station or other place for help. Don’t do this! Never drive your car without the brakes working properly, no matter how close the destination. Wait until the tow truck driver or other help has arrived, and then have your brakes fixed by a qualified mechanic.

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