More on vehicular accidents
By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas
I ended the article here last week with Murphy’s Law—if anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst time and place. It was like that truck that plowed into 16 vehicles in front of it downhill Bokawkan Road last week. One untimely death resulted.
As I said last week prevention is the best remedy from vehicular failure and another way is through back up systems. These can get you out from the reach of Murphy’s Law.
The truck in the said accident lost its brakes. But big trucks like that one (ten wheeler) should have Maxi brakes, unless they are antique. All the driver had to do was pull the handle of the Maxi or press its button and it will practically lock the vehicle in place.
Another back up system for lost truck brakes is the exhaust brake. The system closes the exhaust manifold of a diesel truck and would greatly slow down the engine and the truck allowing the driver to steer the vehicle in a way as to prevent catastrophic damage. He could even progressively go to lower gears until it stops when he gets to first gear.
Both systems can be used in tandem but the Maxi brake if in good condition should be enough to immobilize a truck about to go wild.
These will all be for naught, however, it the drivers has no balls and jumps off at the first sign of trouble.
For small vehicles like cars the back up system for lost brakes is the parking brake (hand brake or foot brake in some models) but it must be in good condition to be able to stop or slow down the car. Once it slows down then shifting into the low gears can end the process by slowing it down and stopping it. If the traffic is moving go to the next lower gear and then next lower and when you can get it in first gear the car will stop if you are not stepping on the accelerator. This is possible if the car has a manual transmission (others call it stick shift).
For automatic cars, the only back up system would be the parking brake. Well, perhaps you can put the gear shift lever into reverse or park which will mean destroying the transmission (a major part of the car) but I doubt it could stop the car at high speed.
All of these can happen only if the driver does not panick. It does not mean having to have nerves of steel, just enough balls to be able to keep one’s cool.
Did I ever try any of these? Sure.
About five years ago I bought an old car which was heavy with a V8 engine. When I was going down Marcos Highway, its brakes malfunctioned. No brakes at all. My passenger whom I brought along to help me out if anything happened was already panicking— shouthing Oy! Oy! Oy!—when we were about to hit the back of a brand new Honda Civic. It was good the traffic was moving. I tried to step on the foot brake (parking brake) but missed it the first two tries as I was not used to the car. I hit it the third time and it slowed down the car, released it again to gain speed, slowed it down by stepping on it. Then I tried fully stopping the car with it. Voila, it could! I got it home 20 kilometers away. When we reached that part which was one of the steepest roads around, I was doing I was doing the process with the foot brake with a lot pf prayer.
As to keeping cool, you have to be, even at high speed. One night, I was racing with two other cars about 24 years ago on the two-lane end of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). I was in the middle of the two cars. We were all at very high speed and with the power of my straight 6 cylinder engine I was confident I could overtake the one in front through the right shoulder., which was crazy, but I still did it. So I gunned the car only to find out there was a slow moving jeep there. It was so close I would have bumped it, and I could not go back to the lane I came from because the third car was there. The only choice was to bump the jeepney or jump the car on the right side of the explressway. I took the chance and it jumped several times over mounds down the right side but it landed OK– upright. One of the front tires burst and the king pin on the driver’s side of the front suspension got loose. We just removed the tire and tightened the king pin and we were again on our way up to Baguio.
Whether you are an ordinary driver, or a truck driver, or a frustrated car racer like me, stay cool during emergencies and you can stop the car or steer you way to safety.**