Stage 4: Driving off the road (not off-roading)

Location: Low-traffic rural road.
Length of Lesson: 45-60 minutes.

Learning to safely drive a car off the road and back onto it is an extremely important skill for all drivers. Nearly every driver will, at some point in their life, encounter a situation in which they must drive off the road. Knowing how to handle it can drastically increase your chances of avoiding a serious crash.

The Scary Stats

Nearly half of all fatal, single-vehicle crashes are the result of a rollover. In most cases, this is caused by a driver who has driven off the road and then jerked the steering wheel to correct. This then causes the vehicle to flip over. In 2006, this killed 9,362 people.

I was personally involved in a single vehicle accident in which the driver flipped the vehicle several times. Luckily, all of us in the car survived. You can read more <about the guru> and why I created this website. Suffice it to say, knowing how to handle your vehicle when an emergency occurs is a big part of being a safe, smart, and skillful driver.

Two Wheels at a Time

The key to safely driving off the road and safely returning involves gradually moving off and back on the road. The turning of the steering wheel should be slight. This reduces the chance of erratic vehicle behavior when your tires encounter an uneven or unpaved shoulder.

  • When driving off the road, turn the wheel slightly to the right so that both of your right-side tires exit the road. DO NOT BRAKE. Your feet should be off both the brake and the accelerator pedals. Basically, you’re “coasting”.
  • Turn the wheel slightly back to the left so that your car is driving parallel to the road.
  • Start braking and ease the two left wheels off the road.
  • Steer straight and come to a stop.

Follow the procedure below if you need to return to the road while still moving.

  • At this point, all four wheels are off the road surface and you are traveling parallel to the road.
  • Steer gently to the left until you feel the front left tire enter the road. At this point, steer gently back to the right (counter steer) in order to straighten the car. At this point, the rear left tire will have entered the road.
  • Steer gently to the left until both of your right wheels are back on the road. As soon as they enter the road, steer gently back to the right.
  • Straighten out the car in the middle of the lane.

Practice Makes Perfect

This is a task that you, as the parent, should perform from behind-the-wheel in order to show your teen what to do. Talk them through it as you perform the maneuver. It will also give them a “feel” of what the car does when it leaves the road and returns. This will help acclimate them for when it is their turn to give it a try.

Start at speeds of about 10mph and as you become more confident, increase the speed. If the road is safe enough, you can continue trying up to about 30-35 mph.

Check out the video…

Continue on to Stage 4: Checklist (you’re almost done!)

All information and advice contained within this website is to be taken at your own risk. Nothing contained within this website should be misconstrued as professional driving instruction.