Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Cruise control crisis? Use the gears, UAE road safety experts say

Road-safety experts have discussed what motorists should do if cruise control in their vehicle becomes stuck.

Drivers whose cruise control becomes stuck should keep calm and manoeuvre into the lane with the least traffic, then shift down gears and brake, experts say.

“Drivers should try to disengage the drive by shifting the gear lever to neutral, and then using the brakes to slow the vehicle down and stop in a safe place,” said Phil Clarke, a principal road safety consultant at Transport Research Laboratory UAE.

“One of the problems is that people panic and don’t think rationally. At low speeds the brakes may even be sufficient to override the drive, and when the vehicle is stopped the ignition can be turned off.”

Last week an Emirati driver’s cruise control became stuck at 120kph while he was travelling on the Kalba-Maliha Road towards Sharjah. Patrols were sent to clear the road ahead of him.

To stop the car, a police vehicle pulled in front of it and slowed down. The runaway car bumped it repeatedly, slowing each time until it stopped.

“Such incidents are puzzling as just about every cruise control system is designed to disengage the moment you touch the brake pedal, put the car in neutral transmission, or just press the off button for the system,” said Shahzad Sheikh, editor of Motoring Middle East.

“When a cruise-control system gets stuck, the braking system of the car should still be capable of slowing and halting the car, even against a revving engine.

“Most cruise control systems are designed to switch off at low speeds, so just slowing the car could help regain control.”

Turning off the car’s engine would also disable the cruise control, but this should be a last resort, said Mr Sheikh.

“Switching the car off also means losing assistance and power to the brakes and steering in most cars,” he warned.

“Also, if there’s a steering lock, you could lose control of the steering completely. But it could be employed if you are on a long, straight, relatively clear road.”

In a similar incident in August 2012, an off-duty police officer in Ras Al Khaimah saved the life of a man whose runaway 4x4 was jammed on cruise control, also at 120kph.

The police officer drove ahead of the vehicle to slow it down and told the driver to gradually apply the handbrake. 

The officer then forced the Land Cruiser on to a sand dune, where it finally came to a halt within 1 kilometre of the Emirates Road roundabout on the E311 motorway.

“A natural reaction is for the driver to pull the break too quickly and harshly,” said Mr Sheikh.

“Be aware that if you use the handbrake at speed you could skid and lose control of the car, particularly if you pull the handbrake suddenly with force.”

In January of the same year, police in Saudi Arabia triggered the automatic brakes of a 4x4 stuck in cruise control at 210kph by shooting out the rear windscreen, the Saudi newspaper Al Rayat reported.

And in February, a driver on the Abu Dhabi-Al Ain motorway found his cruise control was jammed at 160kph. Two police cars drove ahead in formation. The officers talked to the driver by phone to tell him how to bring his vehicle under control.

rruiz@thenational.ae

Updated: May 6, 2017 04:00 AM

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