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What do you do if a driver collapses?

collapse at the wheel

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kc23/12/2014 13:13:16
6223 forum posts
169 photos

Obviously the news prompts this discussion but let's not speculate on that but plan what to do if something happens in future to us.. Just as in flying where we programme ourselves to " land straight ahead if the engine cuts on takeoff" perhaps we should work out in advance what to do if someone collapses at the wheel of their car?

My thought is to steer from the passenger seat, push the gear lever into neutral on a manual and pull on the handbrake eventually. Pretty sure that would work as I have steered a car around a mini roundabout from the passenger seat ( teaching my wife to drive! ) and we all know a car coasts in neutral and the handbrake eventually stops the car. Steering accurately is the main way to avoid trouble initially I reckon. And of course ensure any cruise control is off and not touched accidently.

But what about an automatic? Pulling the gear lever back into D2 and then D1 would slow the car right down even at full throttle. It seems to me it would be best to steer with your left hand and with right hand push the gear lever button in and pull back to D2 & D1. But it's tricky when properly seatbelted in.

I suppose when being a front seat passenger one should always glance at the gearlever etc to just know the layout! Doing it discretely is essential of course.

But in reality it's mostly necessary that your regular passenger ( usually a spouse ) knows what to do if WE collapse or vice versa. So perhaps discuss it in advance and know exactly what to do in a worst case scenario?

What would you do?

scott finnie23/12/2014 13:24:03
756 forum posts
95 photos
Hi KC , I'm not sure what my wife could do, I drive a 2011 range rover vogue auto and my wife a 2014 bmw 7 series paddle shift. The two main issues with these cars is the handbrake is a button and that doesn't work in motion. In the BMW you could try downshift though if youre foots on the accelerator it would override your demand. The range rover you can access neutral but theres still no means to brake. You've raised a very valid issue. I would like to think ( I prey it never happens) if it where my wife id try steer the car into the somewhere there's no people and attempt a controlled crash.
I'm sure it will be something looked into very much as cars become more technically advanced.

I'd like to add my thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victim's of the Glasgow tragedy


Edited By scott finnie on 23/12/2014 13:26:41

Allan Bowker23/12/2014 14:36:15
1626 forum posts
227 photos

Perhaps an emergency stop button? Just like in the Google autonomous cars:

scott finnie23/12/2014 14:41:36
756 forum posts
95 photos
I do worry about hackers with these Google cars , and my blood pressure, I'm not sure I'd trust the car
avtur23/12/2014 15:04:05
883 forum posts
20 photos

Firstly thoughts are with the families of those affected by the terrible accident accident in Glasgow.

I think the options for controlling any vehicle from the passenger seat are always going to be very limited and I'm not sure that all options can be prepared for; some problems have already been described. Many commercials have controls to the right of the driver which leaves steering the only control which could be influenced.

I think we just have to keep in mind (thankfully) that statistically such incidents are incredibly rare.

Edited By avtur on 23/12/2014 15:05:30

The Wright Stuff23/12/2014 15:39:21
1381 forum posts
226 photos

I'll add my thoughts to the people affected by the terrible accident.

I would have thought that in addition to trying to retain control, some priority should also be given to alerting pedestrians and other road users to the fact you are largely out of control. Hazard lights on, and beeping the horn!

Vecchio Austriaco23/12/2014 16:23:59
1498 forum posts
707 photos

I do not know how far the seats are apart between driver and passenger in this lorry - can they reach the warning buttons/ the horn switch in time? - And probably they were wearing leather gloves for their job which makes the task even more difficult.

It was a tragical and terrible accident and lets hope that such a situation doesn't repeat too often. We cannot react to every possibie threat with corrective measures - we live in a mechanised world and as long as humans are in control accidents will happen. This doesn't mean that I trust into automatic systems either - they are only as good as they have been designed and programmed.


Josip Vrandecic -Mes23/12/2014 16:48:22
2993 forum posts
260 photos

Hi KC , your post reminds me on very old dilemma and experts discussion, at a high level in USA (FAA) , about parachutes on commercial passengers flights or not? .... I think they don't use at the present smile p. Decision was wise because, can you imagine a quick course in parachutings, before each passenger flight ??? lol teeth 2



malcolm woodcock 123/12/2014 17:33:16
397 forum posts

If some one collapses over the controls then some control, even if you don't know what you're doing, is better than leaving things in the lap of the gods.

kc24/12/2014 12:12:25
6223 forum posts
169 photos

Malcolm is right. Doing nothing will end in disaster. Knowing what you should do in an emergency situation is what prevents an emergency becoming a disaster. As model pilots who push things to the limits very often we are in a better position than most to know that having a plan in the back of your mind of what to do if things go wrong gets away with it most of the time. It is pretty clear at the flying field that there are some people who always do the right thing whatever the circumstances and some who always get it wrong. It's not luck, it's that some people have it in their mind exactly what they should do when things start to go wrong and react accordingly. We know from experience that the important thing is to react immediately there is any sign of the least thing going wrong. That's the key point.

But what is the right procedure in an automatic vehicle? It seems that auto commercial vehicles often have righthand auto gear selectors so probably a passenger could do nothing. But almost all automatic cars have central selectors. So are we all agreed that putting an auto car into ' Neutral' at any speed will be completely wrong? And putting it into D2 then D1 is the only possible way?

scott finnie24/12/2014 12:21:02
756 forum posts
95 photos
KC I tried to get my vogue to go into neutral whilst moving at 10mph in our drive and it refused. I've got R N D S I've not got a lever but a dial , I also tried the start stop button but wouldn't do anything either, the car has more control over user inputs to protect itself. A simple off button that applies the brakes firmly would certainly be ideal. A smash glass in case of emergency idea

Erfolg24/12/2014 12:33:56
11565 forum posts
1274 photos

A real tragedy, where the results are heightened due to the time of the year.

Although accidents of this type do happen, fortunately they are very infrequent.

There are many accidents where at a practical level, the costs and the benefits of endeavouring to improve on the low level of risk, it is often decided to do nothing. Just take people who collapse working on roofs, say installing aerials, where the installation of scaffolding is considered disproportionate. There will be many others examples of this type.

On the other hand, there will be safety organisations who will have spotted an opportunity to make some money, potentially save a very small number of lives and at the same time produce a large number of jobs, from bureaucrats, inspectors, implementing safety devices, etc.

Paul Adams24/12/2014 17:54:37
217 forum posts
22 photos

A friend from work was given an automatic hire car and he is used to driving a manual. All went well until he changed gear whilst moving, and inadvertently selected park. The transmission locked, causing the car to skid to a halt. No harm done you would think, but unfortunately the person driving the car behind him had no warning of what was happening (the brake lights don't light when you select park) and crashed into him. Thank god no one was hurt, but the person behind insurance must have got a bit of a hammering.

Peter Miller24/12/2014 18:41:12
10529 forum posts
1246 photos
10 articles

Very simple.

Say "Our Father....."

Phil May24/12/2014 19:17:55
1520 forum posts
154 photos

This size commercial vehicle will have air brakes, the hand brake is a simple on / off lever approx 6 " long located 99% of the time to the left of the driver, either dash mounted or slightly behind where the gear stick ( if manual ) would be.

Operating this locks the rear wheels instantly even if the throttle was fully depressed.

Why someone else in the truck did not operate this....who knows...shear panic, shock ...will we ever know.

Heartfelt condolences to all involved.

Shaunie24/12/2014 19:24:35
943 forum posts
78 photos

They ought to cover things like this in the owners manual. Some cars such as the Ford C-max have an emergency setting on the parking brake switch, if the passenger pulls and holds the switch the car does an emergency stop. I'm surprised the Range Rover does not do this. You may have to be brave, find a safe piece of road and give it a go.

No hope with a Passat though as it is on the very right of the dashboard.

If you can get your foot across onto the brake, on most modern cars this will cause the engine to shutdown to idle. So you will not be fighting the engine with the brakes. Just drive down the road and gently touch the brake pedal with your left foot and all your power will go away, just choose a safe place to try it.


scott finnie24/12/2014 19:41:42
756 forum posts
95 photos
Hi Shaunie , I'm off microlight flying first thing tomorrow if our wind dies down! Its my Christmas getaway first thing, I'll give it a go on there runway and see what happens, the brakes are pretty powerful so I'm guessing if it does work it should stop relatively quick. I've an SOS button that puts me through to a call centre, there meant to be able to run a diagnostic check ect. I do know that if the cars involved in a high impact crash it messages the centre and provides GPS coordinates. Well that's what range rover have said. All I need it to do is get me from A to B safely and tow a microlight. I'll try hold it tomorrow and will update on my results ,

Shaunie24/12/2014 20:55:29
943 forum posts
78 photos

Scott, you lucky, lucky person. All I've got is family and a larder full of alcohol

Don't get hypothermic up there and please report back.


Edited By Shaunie on 24/12/2014 20:58:09

sorry about the edits, I hate posting with an eyephone!

Edited By Shaunie on 24/12/2014 20:59:51

Shaunie10/01/2015 20:29:05
943 forum posts
78 photos

Just to revive an old thread. I had another couple of C-Maxes in last week, so a little testing was in order. The one I chose was an auto.

Pull and hold the handbrake switch while driving, the warning light comes on, the chime sounded for about two seconds and the car did a controlled stop. It was gentle enough that even without a seatbelt the occupants would stay in their seats. Felt like the vehicle was using the service brakes to do this. Once the car was down to 2-3mph the handbrake motors could be heard to engage and the car came to a complete stop.

Ran out of time to try it on the manual variant.


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