The Driver’s Fainted!

4 min read
Should the driver of a car become unconscious, how should you, as a passenger, react? As there’s no time to lose, familiarise yourself with these steps.

The implementation of the Circuit Breaker in Singapore means that people are meant to stay at home as much as possible to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This means no family excursions anywhere, and definitely no carpooling with strangers.

However, should you need to head out for essential services, such as shopping for groceries or accompanying an elderly to the clinic, having a car is certainly a boon in these situations.

But imagine the nightmare situation of the driver passing out at the wheel — and you’re a passenger! Whether you’re taking a regular taxi or a car ordered via Grab, there’s no time to ponder, as quick action is required. You need to change your mindset — you are no longer a passenger but an active participant in bringing the car under control. But what should you do?

Getting control
The number one priority is getting control of the steering wheel as soon as possible. Reach over from the passenger side to grab the steering wheel and try to stop the car veering. You may think it’s a good idea to also turn the engine off — don’t! Doing that would cut the power steering and power brakes, making the steering much heavier — you will be struggling to control the car, and the brakes will be harder to depress!Alert others
Turning on the hazard lights and sounding the car horn will alert other road users and bring attention to your predicament. They may give way to you and clear some space ahead to allow the chance for you to slow down the vehicle. This can help reduce the chance of a serious accident. In some cases, other motorists may help stop your car — like the case of a Singaporean using his car to stop an out-of-control taxi.

Slow the vehicle down
If you are seated next to the driver, quickly unbuckle your seatbelt so you can gain access to the car pedals. If it is difficult to nudge the driver’s feet off the pedals, put the car in neutral (the ‘N’ on an automatic car’s gear shift) instead. This will cut the power to the wheels and stop the car from speeding up. This reduces the chance of a potentially fatal accident from happening. Steer the car, if possible, to the left-most lane, away from the speeding and overtaking lanes.

Bring the car to a stop
At this point, use your right leg to get into the driver’s footwell and try again to push his or her foot off the pedals. Once you manage to get on the brake pedal, don’t jab at it; just slowly apply pressure to it until the car comes to a complete stop. If you find it difficult to do so, try using the handbrake to assist in slowing the car. If the car has a manual handbrake, pull it up gently to avoid sudden braking. With an electronic handbrake — and this applies only in some car makes — pulling continuously on the parking brake lever (marked ‘P’) may help bring the car safely to a complete stop. Once the car has stopped by the side of the road, turn off the ignition and take out the car key. Make sure to engage the handbrake before you attend to the driver or call for assistance.

It pays to be observant, even before you get into the car. If you notice that the driver seems uncoordinated or disoriented, you may be better off not getting into the car in the first place!

Take Note
Once again, don’t try to be a hero. If you don’t feel well, DO NOT get behind the wheel. If you are already behind the wheel when you start to feel unwell, find the nearest place to park and have a rest before completing your journey.

Circuit Breaker Behaviour
Assign one person (DO NOT make it a family outing) per household to do the shopping for essentials. If using ride-hailing apps, this person should wear a mask; wearing a mask should not hinder you from taking the steps recommended in this article.