No need to panic in an emergency

Emergency situations that suddenly confront the driver of a car are not a figment of the imagination. They happen.

By their very nature they give you no time to ponder the best course of action. Reaction has to be instinctive and therefore regularly pre-visualised.

Here are a few such emergencies and the suggested instinctive responses:

lYou are driving along a busy stretch of road on a bright, sunny morning when a bee flies into the car and start buzzing about your head.

Reaction: Realise that a bee sting will not kill you unless you are highly allergic to bee venom.

So focus on bringing the car to a stop in a safe place as quickly as possible while temporarily ignoring the bee. Once stopped, persuade the bee to leave the car and get on with its business of making honey.

lOn a dark and stormy night you are driving your jalopy along a deserted road when the lights suddenly go out.

Reaction: There is no time for cursing or panic here. Immediately switch on the four-way emergency flashers and turn the headlight switch to parking lights, which might still be working.

Even the meagre light from these sources will be better than no light at all, and might just allow you to pull off the road safely and look for the cause of the failure.

lOn a blustery day you are barreling along when a particularly fierce gust of wind tears the bonnet from its latch and flips it up against the windscreen.

Reaction: Duck down and peer through the narrow gap that's normally left between the rearward edge of the bonnet and the cowling, or stick your head out of the window to see the road ahead.

Put on your indicators, avoid panic braking, and pull over to the side of the road as far as possible.

You might find that the bonnet latch is broken. Tie the bonnet down securely before proceeding, using whatever comes to hand - a necktie or, even better, a brassiere will work fine.

The worst nightmare is when the dislocated bonnet smashes the windscreen. Some degree of forward vision should still be possible, but replacement windscreens for older cars are hard to find.

lOne evening you are waiting in the middle of an intersection to turn right when the engine suddenly cuts out and you see dense smoke pouring from under the bonnet. You have a fire in the engine compartment.

Reaction: You have to act lightning fast. Immediately switch on the four-way hazard flashers.

This is a situation in which a small fire extinguisher is worth its weight in gold. If you have one grab it, open the bonnet and kill the fire before it can do more damage.

Failing that, briefly try to re-start the engine. If it proves futile (as is probable), put the car in low gear or reverse and crank it along on the starter to get to the side of the road.

Once there, tell passengers to get out, grab whatever cloth you can lay your hands on and open the bonnet. Try to find the source of the flames amid the smoke and smother them with the cloth.