Please Remain Inside the Vehicle at All Times

Tonight I saw a patient who reminded me of the inexplicable nature of human behavior under stress: my patient jumped out of a moving car "because the brakes failed", and didn’t want to "be in the crash".

These patients utterly flummox me.  My inner dialog runs to ‘how stupid could you possibly be?’ and gives me a desire to ban cartoons, which can be the only explanation for such behavior. 

This happens often enough I wonder if this is lore in some communities / circles, bizarre though it may be.  To say this is a foreign thought is an understatement.

So, stay in the car, wear your seatbelt, and have your brakes checked every once in a while.


  1. Have you heard of the book “Worst case scenario”? It was a little paperback thingy that came out a few years back, containing hints n things about how to get out of tough jams (the jams tended to be stuff most normal people would never find themselves in). Anyway, it was a huge success, there are other books in what is now a series, I think, and there’s a spinoff tv show. I don’t own any of the books, but have seen them in stores and glanced through the first one.

    So, I think there’s advice in there that says you should jump from a brake-failed car, and it gives a step by step how to. I’m assuming this because I remember happening upon the tv show where this was being discussed, and the stunt lady was demonstrating how to do it. I think a lot of the advice is incredibly stupid (eg. how to jump from a speeding bike onto an out-of-control 16 wheel rig and bring it to a halt. You’re apparently supposed to do this if you happen upon an out of control truck because you might “save lives.”)

    Maybe your patient watches too much tv. It’ll kill ya man.

  2. I get my brakes checked quite regularly. They still failed once. Brake line developed a leak and there was no fluid. It was pretty scary – especially with kids in the car.

    Fortunately, I wasn’t going very fast and I’d allowed PLENTY of following room. I took my foot off the gas and downshifted. Then drove about 5 miles/hour the 3 blocks to my mechanic and used the parking brake to keep from hitting anything there when I wanted to come to a full stop. If I’d been any further away, I’d have called a tow truck.

    Jump out of the car? Are they nuts?

    One more thing. I’ll never own a car with an automatic transmission if I have any choice in the matter.

  3. Jumping out of a car makes perfect sense…assuming the conditions are right. That’s a huge “IF” and I’d never do it.

  4. Aerospace Genius says:

    In the days before seat belts, Denny Hulme developed quite a reputation for leaping from Formula 1 cars after losing control. He got away with all of them, but the F1 cars of the ’50s offered about as much driver protection as a motorcycle and Denny was an accomplished motorcycle racer before switching to cars. Instinct, I suppose.

    Driving is such a repetitive activity that we rarely think about it, including pre-planning responses to unusual situations. For example, there are a lot of ways to slow down in the event of total brake system failure, although that is extremely unlikely due to the dual systems that have been required for decades. Judy’s actions were excellent, but there are more to consider:

    0. Buckle up!
    1. Use the parking brake.
    2. Pump the brake pedal a few times in case there is enough fluid left to do a little braking.
    3. Downshift one gear at a time to 1st gear – this works even with an automatic transmission.
    4. Turn onto a road that goes up hill.
    5. Swerve left and right very aggressively – tire drag will slow you down and everyone around will get out of your way.
    6. Shift your automatic transmission into Park.
    7. Scrub your tires along the curb or the side of your car along the guard rail.
    8. Run into the car in front of you – yes really, but we are getting desperate now and you both stand a decent chance of survival compared to the remaining alternatives.
    9. Try to spin out to the right if there is a big clearing.
    10. Have Scotty beam you up.

    Things NOT to do:
    1. Jump out
    2. Drive or spin into the oncoming lane
    3. Drive off the road
    4. Freeze/panic
    5. Speed up
    6. Drive down hill
    7. Crash into a pedestrian or 50
    8. Crash into a fixed object heavier than your car

  5. Hillclimber says:

    I have a relative, a rural Fire Chief, who refuses to wear a seatbelt and has convinced his family not to wear them. His philosophy “Better to be thrown clear.” As an ex-racer, I find this insane. I agree with Aerospace Genius and would add one more NOT do.

    Do not turn the ignition key OFF, it locks the steering and takes away all control.


  1. AloisMd says:

    Grand Rounds #45

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  2. GruntDoc says:

    Just Stay in the Car..

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, &nbsp Just stay in the car, especially if it’s still moving….

  3. GruntDoc says:

    Just Stay in the Car..

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, &nbsp Just stay in the car, especially if it’s still moving….