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Column: Tips to avoid a head-on collision

Question: I am wondering what the best procedure is when you see an oncoming car headed right for you. If you steer to the left and have a passenger, you are probably putting them at great risk. If you steer right, you're probably the goner. Is it best to just slam on the brakes then or what? 

Answer: Head-on crashes can be very deadly. The National Safety Council recommends The four R's when trying to avoid a head-on collision:

-READ the road ahead

-Drive to the RIGHT

-REDUCE your speed

-RIDE off the road 

Let me briefly explain these. Reading the road ahead means you are scanning, looking around your vehicle. Look up to the next hill, curve or overpass to be aware of your surroundings and other vehicles. 

Driving to the right means driving slightly to the right of the center of your lane on two lane roads. This will put you in a position to be seen sooner by oncoming vehicles intending to pass and for you to be closer to the right for your "escape right."

Reduce your speed for any hazard, including and especially oncoming vehicles in your lane, but don't slam on your brakes necessarily. 

Then, riding off the road means that you are not jerking the wheel and rolling over, you just steer that way and get away from the oncoming vehicle, but watch where you are driving, of course.

Know that when avoiding a head-on collision, you should never steer to the left over the centerline or into the oncoming traffic lane - always steer to the right. Also, never jerk the wheel as stated above, because you could lose control and roll your vehicle or worse. If you do have to drive down into the ditch/off the road, aim for something soft, not hard. Hitting small trees or shrubs or brush is a lot safer than hitting a concrete object. If you have to hit something hard, try to hit it with a "glancing blow" instead of directly head on.

Other things that can help save your life or help with head on collision situations would include properly wearing the seat belt, driving with your headlights on at all times, driving the speed limit or to the existing conditions and paying strict attention to your driving. Oh, driving sober helps a lot too!

With questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, contact Trp. Jesse Grabow - Minnesota State Patrol, 1000 Hwy 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501; or email