Driving Emergencies — Avoidance & Survival

By Alex Perdikis

Modern cars are safer than ever, but that doesn’t mean you won’t face an emergency situation when you drive. You might be a great driver, but there are people on the road who are not. And, you certainly can’t control Mother Nature.

Sometimes bad things happen. Often, your chances of avoiding a serious injury and surviving depend on how well you prepare beforehand. You can’t control everything when you drive, but there are steps you can take now to lower the odds of having a serious accident.

Time for Review

Even if you’re an experienced driver, a refresher course about how to handle car malfunctions could save your life. Follow these safe-handling tips if your car suddenly acts up:

  • Headlights stop working. Press the dimmer switch a couple of times to see if that works. If it doesn’t, do the same with the headlight switch. If the lights don’t come on, pull off to the side and turn your hazard lights on. Call for help.
  • Power steering fails. Prepare to use extra muscle to steer. Turn to the side of the road and stop when it’s safe. If the engine cuts out, you’ll have to apply extra brake pressure to stop the car.
  • Brakes fail. This is probably one of the most frightening experiences a driver can have. First, downshift. If you have regular brakes, immediately pump the brake in rapid succession to build up brake fluid pressure. If you’ve pumped more than four times to no avail, use the parking brake to stop.
  • Tire blowouts. Resist the urge to slam on your brakes. Firmly grip the steering wheel, remove your foot from the accelerator and let the car slow gradually. As you slow down, pull to the side of the road and stop. Activate your emergency lights.
  • Sudden acceleration. If your car accelerates suddenly, put it in neutral. If that doesn’t slow you down, turn the ignition off. Pull to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe.


“Reduce the chances of experiencing these types of malfunctions by properly maintaining your car.” — Alex Perdikis


Follow the schedule in the owner’s manual for oil and fluid changes, tuneups and filter replacement. Keep a close eye on your tires. Rotate tires as directed by the manufacturer and replace when necessary.

What’s the No.1 Way to Survive an Accident?

The No.1 way to survive an accident is not to have one at all. If you drive defensively, concentrate on your surroundings and follow the basic precepts of smart driving, you significantly reduce the odds of having an accident.

Follow these proactive driving tips to avoid accidents:

1. Look far, far ahead. Concentrate on the road ahead and use your peripheral vision to stay in your own lane. You’re probably asking yourself, “How far ahead is enough?”

Here’s a simple trick — take a dry-erase marker, sit in the driver’s seat of your car and look straight ahead. With the marker, draw a line across the windshield a tad below your line of vision. Your eyes should stay above the line when you drive except for a brief glance below now and then.

If you’re in traffic, look through the windshield of the car ahead of you for a long view. It also helps to position your car slightly to the left of the driver in front of you. That way, you can see what’s going on farther down the road.

2. Beware of intersections. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over a third of vehicle crashes occur at intersections. Navigating an intersection is not the time to let your guard down.

Intersections are particularly dangerous for pedestrians, bicycle riders, motorcyclists and those in small cars. Why is that? Modern vehicle designs reduce a driver’s view of smaller objects.

Even so, it’s your fault if you hit a person, bicycle, motorcycle or smaller car. If you do, it means you didn’t look well enough.

When you turn at an intersection, brake completely. Look where you want to go before you turn the wheel. Check your side windows and mirrors and only turn when you’re confident the way’s clear.

If you’re driving through the intersection, protect yourself from distracted drivers who run through stop signs or red lights. Look left and right and through the side windows before you enter. Remember to leave enough room between you and the car in front of you, in case it slows to make a turn.

3. Perfect your off-the-road/back-on-the-road technique. Single car accidents account for a quarter of accident fatalities, according to the NHTSA. Distracted and drunken driving account for some of that total, but often a driver simply panics and overcorrects.

If, for whatever reason, you find yourself driving with two wheels off the road, steer straight and release the accelerator. Remain calm and slowly steer back on the road.

What If It Happens Anyway?

If you drive long enough, chances are you will be involved in an accident. It can happen even when you do everything right. Prepare for the “just in case” by making sure your phone is fully charged before you get in the car. Keep a survival kit with food, water and first aid equipment in the trunk. Maybe with a little luck, you won’t have to use them.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Fun for the Entire Family: There’s a Car Festival Near You

By Alex Perdikis

Americans love cars. The car is more than something to get around in — it’s a way of life. That’s probably why there are so many car shows and festivals around the country. They’re not all beauty contests, either. Most have unique twists that make them stand out. So, grab some snacks, gather the kids and hit the road for some family fun at one of these festivals.

The Newport Hill Climb

Newport, Indiana, is home to the annual Newport Antique Auto Hill Climb. The actual race is held on the first Sunday in October, but the festival itself starts the Friday before and lasts three days. The festival attracts up to 100,000 people each year. The hill at the center of the competition is steep with a finish line 1,800 feet up.

What gives the Hill Climb festival its unique spin is that it’s a hill climb competition of unlikely participants. The competition is open only to 1942 and older stock autos and trucks, discontinued makes through 1955 and non-OHV motorcycles through the year 1953.

“The sight of a Model T  or other antique powering up the hill is what makes this festival so much fun.” — Alex Perdikis


The Newport Hill Climb has a fascinating backstory as well. The hill in the center of town has been a challenge since “new-fangled” automobiles were invented. In the early 1900s, two owners of what are now called antique cars decided to see which made it up the fastest. Out of that competition, a tradition was born. The first formal Hill Climb competition was held in 1909.

Aside from the competition itself, there’s also a car show, food, vendors and nearby camping and lodging. You can also purchase a raffle ticket to help support the festival. What’s the prize, you ask? Each year, organizers give away a restored vintage car.

The Wine & Wheels Car Show

This one-day festival is young compared to the Hill Climb, but it’s already popular. Held at the Catoctin Breeze Vineyard in Thurmont, Maryland, every July, the Wine & Wheels raises money for charity.

The car show features modern and classic vehicles and a “Top 10 Best Cars” competition where visitors vote for their favorites. Fun includes live music, food, raffles and wine. Even though wine is served, the festival has plenty of activities for kids as well.

You can enter your own vintage car, if you have one, for a nominal fee.

The Celebration Exotic Car Festival

April in central Florida means fun in the sun for a lot of people. April is also when the Celebration Exotic Car Festival takes place.

Each year, the festival raises money for a children’s charity. And, each year is better and bigger than the last. The four-day festival brings together a collection of race cars, Hollywood film cars and, of course, exotic cars. Celebrities also make appearances. “Happy Days” regulars Anson Williams and Donny Most are just two of the celebrities who’ve recently appeared.

The inspiration for the festival came after the tragic death of Laura Ippoliti in 2001. Laura was an F1 and Ferrari enthusiast, well-known for her big heart and love of children. Family members decided to turn Laura’s death into a positive and the Celebration Exotic Car Festival was born.

Founded in 2004, the Celebration Exotic Car Festival is a charitable event with 100 percent of the proceeds going to children’s’ charities such as Make-a-Wish and the Special Olympics.

International Route 66 Mother Road Festival

Tucked away in Missouri’s Ozarks sits the town of Springfield. Most of the year, it’s a much quieter place than nearby Branson. But every August Springfield turns into a celebration of America’s Mother Road.

The two-day show features hundreds of vintage, classic and antique vehicles in every class imaginable. The Route 66 Mother Road Festival also features a charity bike show, parade and live music.

Of course, a festival celebrating Route 66 wouldn’t be complete without displays and fun facts about the Mother Road itself. Collectors, artists, historians, authors and associations creatively display memorabilia and artifacts that make the past come alive.

Woodward Dream Cruise

More than a million people visit downtown Detroit in August to take in the Woodward Dream Cruise. Approximately 40,000 cars and trucks line Woodward Avenue for over a mile. Vintage cars, trucks, race cars, exotic cars and performance cars are just some of the unusual and historic vehicles you’ll see.

The Woodward Dream Cruise came out of humble beginnings. Officials in the city of Ferndale, Michigan, needed to raise money for a soccer field. Of course, cars are a way of life so near the Motor City. What better way to raise those soccer field funds than a car cruise with stops at the local drive-ins?

The first official cruise outdid expectations when 250,000 people attended. Now the one-day event is the world’s largest. Family events include a 5K foot race, kids’ inflatable zone, parades, games, music, movies, competitions and prizes.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Why You Should Thank Early Drivers, Mechanics & Inventors for the Safe Car You Drive Today

By Alex Perdikis

Did you know blacksmiths were some of America’s first car mechanics? Machinists and bicycle mechanics also added auto mechanics to their services in the early years. There was nothing like having a diversified skill set even back then.

In the early 1900s, 15 million Americans bought automobiles thanks to the affordable Ford Model T Roadster. Along with all those cars came breakdowns, crashes and, in some cases, utter chaos. You have those early drivers and the chaos that ensued to thank for many of the car features and laws that keep you safe now.

Amazing stories came out of those early years, though. Here are some of the best.

The Life of the Early Car Mechanic

The very first cars were far from reliable. They were also expensive. So expensive, in fact, that only the wealthy could afford them. Wealthy car owners did not drive themselves, but employed chauffeurs. And, in most cases, those chauffeurs were also mechanics.

Ford changed all that with the mass production of the affordable Model T. Nearly everyone could afford a car. And, Americans snatched them up like hot cakes.

The need for mechanics and car repair shops became apparent almost as soon as the first Model T hit the road. There were over 60,000 automobile service shops by the 1920s. Oil companies began offering repair services by the 1930s.

Car owners, as well as professional mechanics, learned engine mechanics on the fly in those early years. Tires blew out frequently. Out of necessity, drivers learned to change tires themselves.

“Many new car owners came from farming backgrounds. Farmers and their families already had experience fixing farm machinery. It wasn’t difficult for them to perform their own car repairs.” — Alex Perdikis

The Model T was designed with simplicity. Owners learned about their car’s engine from the owner’s manual and made their own repairs through trial-by-error. Stories about how owners fixed broken down vehicles with clothespins, twine, baling wire or whatever else they had on hand became the stuff of legend.

The supplied Model T toolbox consisted of a tire repair kit, jack and a measuring stick for gasoline. Professional auto mechanic shop tools typically included a piston vise, dolly jack, hubcap wrench, valve-seat facing tool and valve-spring lifter.

Turning Turtle and Other Mishaps

Americans loved the freedom of hopping in a car and going where they wanted to go. But, the roads, what there were of them, could also be frightening and dangerous.

Stops signs, warning signage, lane lines and street lights were nonexistent. What’s more, traffic laws were nonexistent. You could go as fast as you wanted, drink before you got behind the wheel and drive at any age — no license required.

A few early drivers learned about centrifugal force the hard way when they took a corner too fast and flipped. The problem became so common that newspapers reported the incident as “turning turtle.”

A June 29, 1914, Detroit Free Press article reported a turning turtle. The car contained a bridal couple, wedding guests, children and “many bottles of liquor,” turned a corner at 40mph and turned turtle. No one was killed, but the accident certainly but a damper on the festivities.

Horse carriages were still the main mode of transportation in the early days. Loud motorcars seemed to come out of nowhere scaring horses and carriage drivers alike. Such meetings caused numerous accidents.

The debate about how to handle the onslaught of automobiles and their reckless drivers became so intense that the Georgia State of Appeals declared that automobiles should be classed as ferocious animals. The court clarified its opinion later, explaining that cars were not in the same league as bad dogs or evil-disposed mules, however.

What Were They Thinking?

The lack of traffic laws in the early days meant anyone could and did drive. Truck delivery wagons in Detroit were routinely driven by 14-year-old boys. One family appointed their 11-year-old son as a chauffeur. Another woman, who regularly suffered from blackouts, was arrested 26 times for reckless driving before she ended up killing someone.

Terms for reckless drivers of the day provide a humorous insight into what it was like as cars took over. AAA dubbed inconsiderate drivers “fliverbobs.” Other newly coined terms included “joy riders,” “Sunday drivers,” “road hogs” and “speed maniacs.”

Better Times on the Road

The early days of driving were exciting, but they were also dangerous. Lawmakers and law enforcement experimented with various regulations and finally devised laws that governed who could drive, where people could drive and rules drivers had to follow.

Inventors also came up with ideas that made driving safer for everyone. Traffic lights, road signs and lane designations made the roads themselves safer and easier to follow. Safety features such as windshield wipers, backup lights and turn signals for cars began to appear.

The next time you get in your car, remember to silently thank those early drivers, mechanics, lawmakers and inventors for making modern cars and roads safer.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.