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To Swerve or Not to Swerve

woman driving with passenger

Knowing when and how to swerve can save lives

There are two types of driving – the aggressive driving and defensive driving. The latter part is what most people wanted to learn because it takes consideration not only of themselves, but their surrounding as well. Being a defensive driver requires more skills and that include swerving. It usually takes a lot of experience behind the wheel to master the concept of swerving. Some even attend defensive driving classes just to learn the basics. If you are still learning how to become a defensive driver, then start out by knowing when and how to swerve. Read VroomVroomVroom's tips below and you may eventually avoid road accidents and even save lives.

Tip #1: When faced with potholes

  • driving beside pothole

    Pay attention to tire pressure. Keep tire pressure at level recommended by manufacturer, which will protect against tire damage on impact.
  • Don't swerve to avoid potholes. You may think it's the best option, but swerving can cause your front wheel and tire on the car to hit the edge of the pothole causing more damage than hitting it straight on.
  • Don't brake just because you see a pothole.Heavy braking compresses the front suspension of the car and will have a tendency to force the tire and wheel down into the pothole, instead of gliding over.

Tip #2: Be aware of your surroundings

  • If road signs indicate the presence of animals, rock slides or flooding, reduce speed accordingly.
    • Animals are more common in areas where creeks, rivers or streams run parallel to or intersect a road like in Colorado. The city reportedly had 30,245 animal-vehicle collisions between 1995 and 2005. 
  • Watch for activity on the shoulder or the reflection of your headlights in the animal's eyes. 
    • Note, however, that some larger animals, such as moose, may stand above the range of your headlights.
      • Watch for the flickering headlights or tail lights of other cars, which may indicate unexpected breaking or warning signals.
      • If road reflectors disappear and reappear, animals may be crossing.
      • Make a mental note of what you would do if any sort of obstruction were to appear in front of your vehicle.

wild moose crossing the road

Tip #3: In the case of animals

  • Reacting to animals on the road is very situational.  If you encounter a small to medium sized animal, it is often best to apply the breaks but maintain your course.  Although the animal may not survive the impact, you will fair significantly better.  Swerving may put you in the direct path of oncoming cars or other more substantial inanimate objects.
    • This should not be considered an absolute rule.  If a driver is able to determine that they can safely swerve around the animal without endangering themselves or other motorists, then they should follow their instincts. 
      • Moose and similarly sized animals are the exception to the aforementioned rule.  Impact with a moose, which can weigh up to 1200 lbs, increases the chance for injury or death to driver/passengers dramatically.  When presented with this situation, it is best to swerve around the animal.
    • The Wildlife Collision Prevention Program in Canada notes: if a crash with a moose is inevitable, crouch as low as possible in your seat, or under the dash, as a moose's body usually ends up crushing the roof of a car completely flat.

driving on a puddle

Tip #4: When dealing with puddles & fallen trees

  • The dangers of swerving apply in all driving situations, not just when confronted with an animal.
    • Always try to break short of the obstruction.
  • Puddles may cause a car to hydroplane, but swerving may cause an immediate crash.
    • Maintain low speeds when the streets are wet and never swerve into oncoming traffic.

Tip #5: If you see live electrical wires

  • Avoid downed power lines.  A car's tires should insulate the car from an electrical current, but any number of variables could compromise the safety of car and passengers.
Did you find our swerving tips helpful? If you have other driving tips or advise to our readers, please leave a comment in the disqus box below. Have a safe trip!