Horror movies love to tease drivers with a taste of terror— a man with a hook hiding under your car, a man with a knife kneeling in the backseat, or a man-turned-monster holding onto the roof as you ride down the road.
Tantalizing as those horror stories might be, let’s cast aside ghost stories and urban legends to put real-life threats into view.
After all, while driving can be freeing and fun, it can also be dangerous. Every day, American motorists are injured or killed because of hazards they never saw coming… and some of those threats are downright chilling.
Far from fanciful, these perils are all too real. Once we know what to look for, we can better guard ourselves against the risk of harm.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the scariest things that can happen on the road — and what you can do to protect yourself from them.
1. The Accident After the Accident
Imagine that you’ve just been in a small fender-bender on the Interstate… or maybe you’ve had a flat tire. You pull off the side of the road and signal for help. But while you’re waiting, an inattentive driver swerves off the shoulder at precisely the wrong time, striking you when you least suspect it.
The side of the road is a dangerous place to be. In fact, oncoming traffic is the single greatest threat to individuals on the side of the road and roadside assistance technicians.
How to Protect Yourself: Safely pull your vehicle as far off the shoulder as possible. Turn on your hazard lights. Get out of the vehicle and walk as far away from traffic as you safely can. Put on reflective clothing if you have it. Don’t turn your back to traffic. Call for help.
2. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
There is never a good time to run out of gas. But in a bout of bad luck, it might happen just as GPS is taking you through the wrong part of town.
How to Protect Yourself: If you find yourself broken down in an unfamiliar, high-crime area, stay in your car. Turn on your emergency lights for visibility. Keep your doors locked. If you have a cell phone, call the police and ask for help. No phone? Wait for an officer to drive by. Don’t open your windows or doors to strangers. Stay calm and wait for help.
3. Things That Go Bump in the Night
Driving is generally more dangerous after dark. That’s because drivers are sleepy and hazards are harder to see… like large objects left in the road, for instance.
A discarded tire, debris from a previous accident, or a small appliance that fell off a truck could quickly turn into a serious hazard on the roadway. If your tires hit these objects (called “trips”) at a high speed, your car is in potential danger of rolling over.
How to Protect Yourself: Drive slowly and attentively at night. In areas with no surrounding traffic, use your high beams. Be especially careful in cold weather. Even in the absence of snow, condensation can freeze on the road and create black ice (“black” because you can’t see it on the asphalt).
4. The Log Roll
Have you ever driven behind a big truck transporting logs, lumber, or large metal pipes? Did you spend the whole ride imagining them rolling off and into your windshield? You’re not alone! (I know we said no more horror stuff, but this scene has turned up in a scary movie or two!)
While these accidents are rare, they do happen, and they can be fatal. Driver error is almost always to blame. (The drivers and companies operating these trucks have a duty to secure their cargo.)
How to Protect Yourself: Prevention is key here. Always maintain a significant traveling distance between your vehicle and any truck carrying potentially loose cargo.
Remember: an informed driver is a safe driver. Always treat the wheel with the respect it deserves, and you can steer clear of trouble. The driver’s seat is a place for keeping calm — so don’t watch too many horror movies!
NMA Guest blogger Thomas G. Appel is a personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney in Walnut Creek, CA.