Ah, the unwise days of youthful employment -- pizza delivery in used beaters with serious mechanical problems. In retrospect, my cars probably should not have even been allowed on the road. Nor should many of the moving trucks I've rented.
I've stalled in traffic. I've had a rusted hood latch go on me at highway speeds so I had to pull over in traffic while looking through the tiny slit under the hood. I've had tires blow, accelerator cables snap, and chunks of car fall off unexpectedly.
Warning... about as work-safe as groping your staffers
I've had steam come pouring out of the heating vents suddenly and completely obscuring my view, had smoke from a squirrel nest flood the compartment and choke me, had windshield wipers come loose in the middle of a downpour at highway speeds. I've had heaters so weak they couldn't keep wiper fluid from flash-freezing on my windshield, in direct sunlight, causing total blindness.
Ever driven power steering cars without any power in the steering? Been there. Done that. I've had power brakes fail to manual mode. I've had to pump brakes, had to keep the throttle down or face a stall, and had to do both simultaneously, while working the clutch, with only two feet. I've had to drive with no first or second gears on a catchy clutch.
I've had to jump start while moving, had to get out and push to jump start, had to crawl under the car and reconnect a starter wire in the middle of a busy intersection. I've had to scurry back into the drivers seat after lifting my foot off the clutch when parking while a supposedly turned-off engine dieseled me towards a building wall.
I've spun out on ice more times than I can count. I've fishtailed on dry pavement after braking for a dashing wolf on I-90.
I've spent many frantic seconds praying that that truck driver sees me, or that the guy hurdling up in my rear view window can brake in time.
Despite all this I've never been at fault for anything more than a parking lot fender ding -- but more to the point:
Driving is dangerous. If you get into a car with the attitude that every part of the machine is going to work 100% of the time, and do dangerous things like tailgate or cut people off because you are sure your brakes or acceleration is "just going to work" you seriously need to check yourself.
No matter how safe you drive there is always the chance you'll be put in a situation where things get dangerous, whether it is due to mechanical failure, or the actions of other drivers, or your own brain farts. The most important thing is to keep your head, hands and feet, no matter how the rest of your body is reacting. Shut out the rest of your body. Head, hands, and feet. Ignore the racing heart, the tightened chest, the sinking gut, the hot flash, the burning hot coffee lap, and (for shame) the cigarette coal -- shut it all out for 30 seconds and control yourself and your vehicle. Try feeling just your head, hands, and feet right now. That's what you
have to do, and fast.
The only thing between you and total panic is being mentally prepared.
Please, kossaks, prepare yourself. Do it this week by running through what you should do in various scenarios, testing what your car actually does in a safe area. More importantly do it every single time you step into your car, by saying to yourself "I won't get anything done today if I spend it in a car crash" ... focus before driving. Every time.
You know what does not help people avoid panic?
Telling drivers (and people who may rent one) scary lies about their cars, that's what.
Over the past month I have been told many lies on the Internet about my current car, a 2007 Toyota Prius. Since I have one, and can test things out, and since I'm an engineer and can easily find and read technical documentation, these lies are easy enough for me to debunk. (Even so, I still hate, hate, hate being lied to.)
Lies like "the car won't shift to neutral at highway speeds or with the gas pedal depressed." It does. The engine turns off and you coast like any other car, with full power steering and power brakes.
Lies like "there's only electronics behind the gas pedal, not real breaks." Simply not true. If you push the pedal down far enough you are pushing on an actual hydrolic pump that goes directly to the braking system. Only the casual braking is subject to computer control.
I don't care what you think about Toyota as a company or a product.
Some people get their information on things like this second or third hand. That means they could be getting it from you. If you post in the right spot at the right time, that could be hundreds or thousands of people getting emergency-critical information from YOU.
I'm especially talking to the people who run around screaming "Toyota has murdered 52 people!" and then lie to drivers about their car's emergency behavior.
If some Toyota driver is out there and has some sort of mechanical issue, and they do the wrong thing because they read false information posted to the Internet, the person who passed that information along without fact checking it is just as culpable as any car company employee. Same goes if they just don't know what to do because some ass with a chip on his shoulder yelled "that's blaming the victim!" and down-modded a post offering a link to good information on what to do in an emergency.
Maybe we should hold you all accountable, too.