HOUSTON – Imagine you’re driving down the freeway at night. You are doing everything right, you’re alert, you're paying attention and your mind is totally focused on driving.
Then, out of nowhere, you suddenly see a wrong-way driver heading right at your car.
What do you do?
David Smith, a husband and father from Spring, faced that situation on his way to work one day last April at 5:30 a.m.
“I kissed my wife and my son goodbye, was driving to work on I-45 and (Farm to Market Road) 1960 at 5:30 to 5:45 (a.m.) and this guy hits me head-on in the wrong lane,” Smith said.
Just two weeks ago, Frank Jakobs, of San Antonio, narrowly avoided a collision with a wrong-way driver who was traveling down (U.S. Route) 281 near Hildebrand.
“I noticed that some cars, maybe 100 to 150 yards ahead of me, started to swerve. And I can tell you, within less than a second’s time, suddenly two headlights were coming right at me in my lane," Jakobs said. "I just reacted and jerked the wheel to the right, fast."
Once he arrived safely home, the enormity of what had just happened hit him.
“I just realized I could have been killed," Jakobs said. "I wouldn’t be sitting here now."
What can you do to improve your chances of surviving an encounter with a wrong-way driver?
With help from David Zubrick, a professional race car driver and the owner of Racing Adventures, a high performance driving school, KPRC2 News came up with five simple ways to help you avoid an accident with a wrong-way driver.
Step one: Keep your eyes high.
“You want to keep your eyes high, looking as far down the road as you possibly can," Zubrick said. "You don’t want to be focused on just the car or cars directly in front of you. You want to see as far down the road as possible so you know what’s coming up ahead."
Step two: Stay right at night.
“Stay right at night -- that means stay to the right side of the road, in the far right lane, because the wrong-way driver is most likely to be traveling in the far left lane, thinking he’s driving the right way down the road, and that he’s driving safely in the right lane. He’s not," Zubrick said. "You want to always stay right at night. Don’t drive in the far left lane at night between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m."
Step three: If you see a wrong-way driver coming at you, reduce your speed immediately.
Reduce your speed by taking your foot off the gas pedal and pumping the brakes.
Experts say not to slam on your brakes, because that can cause you to lose control, but slow the car down by pumping the brakes.
Step four: The moment of truth: Steer right to avoid the wrong-way driver.
“You have to turn one way or the other. It is best to turn right and go as far right as possible without leaving the roadway and losing control of your car,” Zubrick said.
What do you do if there is a driver to your immediate right, blocking you from turning right to avoid the oncoming car?
Step five: Turn right anyway.
“There may well be a situation where there’s a car right there on your right side," Zubrick said. "Turn right anyway and just push him off the road. That impact with a car on your side is way better than a head-on collision, which is potentially fatal. Your job is to survive this encounter."
For those interested in taking classes to improve their driving skills, there are many advanced driving schools, many of which teach defensive driving techniques and even race car driving techniques.
Those schools include: