These Are the Stories of Your Luckiest Driving Saves

These Are the Stories of Your Luckiest Driving Saves

A refreshing number of these actually happened in closed environments.

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Photo: Tim Graham (Getty Images)

We’ve all been there — an unavoidable situation, one where you may not have intentionally gotten yourself in trouble but it found you all the same. In those circumstances, it’s often only luck that gets us out unscathed. Yesterday, we asked you for your luckiest driving saves, and today we’re reading through your stories. Let’s see what you said.

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2 / 17

Don’t Drive Tired

Don’t Drive Tired

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Photo: Tim Graham (Getty Images)

Worked all day and made a 6 hour drive to Panama City florida with my GF and her kids.. Got about an hour away, about 11 at night. I was going 60+ Long, straight, Two lane road, pitch black at night, absolutely no light anywhere except for the occasional reflector going by. Woke up to headlights in my face. Got back into my lane, managed to keep it on the road without hitting anything or anybody else. I pulled over and cried.

I’ve had those moments before, where you start nodding off partway into a long trip. Always, always, find a rest stop and take a nap. Even half an hour or so will usually keep you alert for the rest of the drive.

Submitted by: HotSauceIsTheBest

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3 / 17

McRae Mode

McRae Mode

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Photo: SsmIntrigue, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Year before our son was born we were travelling north on I-69 in Indiana just after the New Year to visit some friends. We’d had 8-9in of snow a few days before and blizzard like winds and while the roads were clear, the wind was blowing fine snow across the dark colored roads where it was freezing. Every 1/4 mile there was a car in the ditch on both sides of the road.

Just south of Muncie, IN I saw a ton of break lights ahead and then cars started bailing out left and right into the ditch to avoid what we only assumed was a massive accident. I tried to get on the breaks, but it was already too late, we only had two options, hit the 10-15 cars in front of us or also bail. The ditch on the right side of us was steep and probably 10-12 feet to the bottom and in our 2005 Jeep Liberty, I knew if I eased it down we were going to roll it... So I yelled to my wife, ‘We’re going in!’ and dove into the ditch, corrected as we got to the bottom and just floored it. There was probably 15" of snow down there, no indication of what was under us and I knew if we stopped, we’d never get out.

We drove for almost 2 miles in that ditch, Dakar rally style, but in snow, our heads hitting the ceiling it was so uneven, before the ditch flattened out enough with the road for us to drive out. All the while watching cars and trucks slowly pass us up above wondering what the hell these idiots were doing!

We got off at the next exit and I pulled into a gas station to inspect the Jeep (and calm my nerves). At the next pump, I could see a woman in a car pointing at us and gestering wildly to her husband. I can only assume she was saying, ‘That’s the Jeep that was in the ditch we passed!?’

No other car I’ve ever driven I think could have done what that Jeep did. I totaled that Jeep 5 months later when someone blew a stop sign at an intersection. RIP Jeep, you’re missed!!

Every car can be a rally car if you really, really try. Even a Liberty. At least, it’ll do it once.

Submitted by: Geph_knows_best

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4 / 17

Play It Cool

Play It Cool

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Photo: Missvain, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I was 16. On my way to work, there was a left turn where I would regularly dump the clutch after a downshift to second and kick the back out juuuust a bit. (I mentioned I was 16, right?)

One morning, there was a slight drizzle, and I hadn’t accounted for the lower coefficient of friction. The pickup I was driving came around on me. The spin stopped at 270 degrees, sliding me neatly behind one car, in front of another, and just before sliding into a third.

This left me positioned in the turn lane, 180 degrees from my intended direction. In an “I meant to do that” moment, I put on my signal and completed the left. Of course, this was not my intended route, but I was able to sort that out with a few subsequent right turns.

“What, oh, that? Yeah, I totally meant to do that. It’s just, going straight through intersections is so boring, y’know? Gotta spice it up sometimes.”

Submitted by: smalleyxb122

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5 / 17

Made It By Inches

Made It By Inches

Back in the day, I drove a two tone blue 76' LTD Brougham, with a 460 4bbl, disc brakes and a 32 gallon gas tank. One spring snow morning commute, on tires I mistakenly hoped would make it till fall, I put a wheel on the shoulder, which was covered with a couple inches of the heaviest wet gook I’d seen as a young driver. I turned the wheel left to try to stop the inevitable pull of my 7600lb car off the road, to zero effect. I went off the road, got launched in the air by the berm of a ditch, cleared it, threaded the gap between a telephone pole and a building corner, and continued on my way through the not destroyed building’s parking lot to the street that led to my work, leaving a trail in the snow that prompted my boss who noticed them to say “take a shortcut to work today?”.

For years, I would pass by the intersection, trying to see the gap that I shot to safety, never could figure out how I didn’t destroy so many things that morning.

Who knew classic American cars could fly so well? Beyond the Duke boys, I mean.

Submitted by: charski

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6 / 17

Track Day Woes

Track Day Woes

Close call at Cresson (11.5.22)

This one:

I think you’ve got me beat for track-day terror. That’s a harrowingly close call.

Submitted by: vchengap

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7 / 17

Saved By The Forums

Saved By The Forums

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Photo: User Analogue Kid on en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Way back in 2007, I was driving my first manual car - a red 1999.5 early MkIV Jetta with a 2.Slow engine and 5 speed, purchased from the used lot for $6,000 (it had flimsy, broken “O-shaped” cupholders - one of my first “mods” was to buy the fancy “claw-type” cupholders from later MkIV Jetta/Golf models from eBay).

I was getting the hang of things like rev-matching, double-clutched downshifts, etc., and was enjoying the car on my way home from work one day.

Approaching a right turn at a clear intersection, I decided to give it a nice rev-matched downshift as I flung the car into the turn.

Approaching hot on braking. Brakes off. Rev-match from 4th to 3rd (at the time, I hadn’t mastered heel-and-toe). The car hunkers into the turn.

“Yes - this car is amazing. I’m Tommi-freaking-Makkinen” 

Suddenly, the rear starts coming around.

“Oh no - wait, what... Oh dear...”

Internet wisdom I’d read somewhere (maybe Newcelica.org), flashes in my consciousness: “don’t slam the brakes - give it gas” - so I press my foot on the gas and hope/pray I don’t wreck - the car is sideways, nose pointed at the curb, and I can feel it juddering over the broken/heaved pavement. But I keep the throttle pinned

And just like that, I’ve done it - I’ve accidentally thrown the car into a corner, gotten lift-throttle oversteer, and then managed to save it*, just barely, thanks to some general advice from car forum internet strangers, and a large helping of dumb luck.

*Once the adrenaline wears off, I start noticing a weird wobble or grinding sensation on braking - it turns out that I’d warped the 4-wheel disc brakes on my Jetta, which would require the princely sum of $600 2007 Canadian dollars to repair, and a few days of taking the bus to work (which sucked, where I lived in the Toronto Area at the time). Save it for the track, people - at the very least, the pavement is nicer.

It helps that Makkinen Evos were red, which likely lent a bit of ability to your Golf. That’s how this works, right?

Submitted by: dhj

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8 / 17

This Is Why Pikes Peak Checks Your Brakes

This Is Why Pikes Peak Checks Your Brakes

Upstate NY has some nice roads that follow along lush shale gorges and rolling farmland. My college carclub had a few favorites to pump through, and it was nice watching a Pontiac GTO duel an SR swapped 240SX from a few car lengths behind. The GTO gapping the 240 in the straights, the 240 reeling in the GTO in corners as it wiggled the rear end for grip.

My 93 GSX Eclipse with an LSD rear and ported n clipped Evo 3 turbo had all the supporting mods to keep pace, except for glazed Hawk pads, old EBC rotors w tired fuid after 1.5 seasons of autocross, rally x and other shenanigans.

Following everyone UP in a hillclimb that ran along a state park gorge was no problem, delightful even. It was coming back down soon after. Brake fluid boiled over.

Still going faster than any of us should have coming to a tight corkscrew a la Laguna Seca, with the right side immediately plunging into a 50ft gorge my pedal sank aaaaalll the way to the floor. “Ooooohhh...” This is it. This is my last fuckup and I’m going to send at least one car/friend with me.

About 1/8th mile before the corkscrew with plenty of time to think about my fuckup. 100ish feet before the corkscrew. No amount of pumping helped, gotta do something... that last thing that’s bad but better than dead.

Drop two gears the car bucks sideways and locks up. I come within half a car of the 240's perfect Aztec red rear skirt.

A few months later in a casual downshift the car bucks again and stops dead. Most of the motor and transmission mounts were trashed with the trans housing cracked open spewing metal guts about my engine bay.

Last time doing anything near that stupid outside (or inside) a track.

If you’re wondering what that little moment in Climbkhana is, it’s a brake temperature check. They actually do those in real life, in that same little booth, to ensure your car will still have braking power by the time it reaches the bottom of the hill.

Submitted by: banjo cat ghost of oppo past

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9 / 17

Killing Off Your Alternate-Timeline Selves

Killing Off Your Alternate-Timeline Selves

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Photo: Rutger van der Maar, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

This save wasn’t my own...

Back in 1996 in the northeast we had a somewhat surprising “april fools day” snowstorm. I chose this day to drive to the campus of North Adams State College (now MCLA) in my 1981 Ford Fairmont, rear wheel drive, 4 cyl hunk of shit that had rack and pinion steering that would somehow result in “unplanned lane changes”.

As we drove out Route 2, through the hills of Worcester county, my youthful stupidity in full resplendent glory... Driving about 45 mph I began to fishtail, and when the rear wheels finally found some traction, I was unfortunately aimed perpendicular to the road surface and barrelled straight into a section of guard rail. Neither I or my passenger were wearing seatbelts, we both hit the windshield, with her getting a poorly anchored rear deck speaker to the back of the head. We were both basically fine (although my girlfriend made the mistake of saying her neck hurt a bit, which resulted in an ambulance ride and an extra 3 hours waiting for x-rays and tests, all of which she spent strapped to a backboard)

This was before cell phones, but for whatever reason, my GF had one of those disposable cameras and snapped a couple of photos of the accident. We’d hit an approximately 20 foot wide section of guardrail, on either side of which there were sections missing. I’d made contact with about 3 feet to spare. On the other side of that was a 40 foot long hill with no trees or any other obstructions that led to a cliff with at least a 50-100 foot drop.

We absolutely would have died.

The more close calls with death you have, the more of your alternate-timeline selves die off. Soon, you’ll stand alone in the multiverse, unmoving in the face of cosmic danger.

Submitted by: Fritz O’ The Ham

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10 / 17

I Guess the Road Salt Is Good for Something

I Guess the Road Salt Is Good for Something

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Photo: Vauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Winter 2021 was the first winter with my Mustang, having gotten it in November of the same year. Living in Michigan, most would think you’re crazy to drive one all-year round, but for my living situation firmly in the city it works just fine.

One day I was driving to my parents house about 25 minutes away from where I lived at the time. All was perfectly fine on the roads, a little slush, a little snow, but nothing that would make a difference to any car’s drivability.

I came up approaching a roundabout that I had taken hundreds of time in my life, but as the asphalt transitioned to concrete, it also transitioned to pure ice that no car would be able to avoid. The good news was that I was only going about 20mph at the time.

As my car slid, it rapidly approached the raised concrete center of the roundabout. Thinking I was quite literally about to mount the curb and royally screw-up this brand new car I did what I could to slow down, and somehow managed to turn the car so it was pitched perpendicular and slid up on the center of the roundabout on both of my left-side wheels.

I had slowed enough so that by the time the car climbed the curb, it was able to stop when it got some grip from the solid island of the roundabout and come to a stop. It was abrupt and startling, but not as severe as you might expect

The only thing that stopped my car from receiving some major damage at that moment was that the ice and snow that had settled on the curb and road in such a way that it had transitioned the face of the curb into a smooth transition into the median. Besides the little spook I got, there was no damage whatsoever.

I pulled away out of the roundabout through my exit and saw another car do the exact same thing behind me, sparing me even more damage.

Sure, we all hate road salt for rusting our cars into dust, but is that worse than constant ice? Arguably. You could make the argument. I might make that argument, actually.

Submitted by: Jimjamjojo

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11 / 17

Please Tell Me the Beers Were After the Trip Home

Please Tell Me the Beers Were After the Trip Home

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Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

Teenager in central Idaho, mid-80s, temps about -25*F, wrestling season had just ended, and we had beers/booze stashed in empty mailboxes around a closed & empty subdivision. (A mine had opened up, built a couple hundred modular houses for workers, price for what they mined dropped, closed it down, moved everyone away, left a subdivision of brand new houses & roads abandoned for a couple years until they could sell/move the modular units.)

Because it’s -25*F, the beer is frozen solid, and even the whisky is slushy. We have about a dozen teenage boys, a couple 4x4 vehicles, a couple feet of snow on the ground, undrinkable beers, and a completely empty subdivision with nice wide roads covered in light, fluffy snow.

So we started playing car tag. We somehow did NOT crash into each other, or have anyone fall out the window trying to tag another car or anything, but eventually got bored, so ended deciding to go try and climb a local hillclimb hill.

I was in a ‘72 3/4-ton GMC 4x4 pickup, with 2 buddies with me, and when it was my turn to climb the hill, I basically had it in 4-low, started in 2nd, hit 3rd and was floored when we somehow hit a HUGE rock that was covered by a snow drift. I have a very, very clear memory of the truck bouncing up, and over to the driver’s side, and both of my passengers sliding into me and crushing my against the door, and feeling the truck start to roll over.

I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to keep one hand on the wheel and frantically crank the wheel all the way the other way, and somehow keep the truck pointing uphill and wheels down. Once we were able to stop and catch our breath we decided that we had tempted fate enough for one night and drove very quietly and somberly back to town, drinking the beers that had finally started to defrost after 2-3 hours of driving around.

The story is just a little unclear about whether the beers were during the drive home, or after it. I’m hoping after.

Submitted by: Arolpin

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12 / 17

Always the Sheepish Wave

Always the Sheepish Wave

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Photo: Bart Everson, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

I was on a 2 lane one way road in the left lane, and as many of you have probably experienced, someone in the right lane decided to turn left, last second, across my lane at an intersection. Oh, roads were slushy.

I honked, she stopped late as swerved up onto a pedestrian ramp between 2 utility poles into a snowy yard and stopped inches from a giant tree.

She sheepishly waved as she continued on her way. I was shaken, out of the car, freaking out, but had pedestrians, who I didn’t hit, giving me cheers for not hitting her, the poles, or the tree.

That would be one of my many defensive saves. Stay on your toes, people. Never rest.

It’s a good thing you missed the tree, though. It’s one of the oldest trees in Pottersville.

Submitted by: fredschwartz

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13 / 17

Funny How Quickly Priorities Change

Funny How Quickly Priorities Change

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Photo: Jeremy from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In early 90's I was in an 85 Camry hatchback with brake issues. I don’t recall exactly what the problem was, blown out rear drum cylinder or something, but I do recall that I shouldn’t have been driving it and I knew it. However, I was young and poor and I didn’t have the scratch to come up with another ride or fix the problem. The pedal was mushy, but down near the floor there was some pressure, so I’d just shift the auto trans to slow down and use what little pressure I had and it’d be fine. Right? Well, no. I got away with it for a while, but one day as I left work I carried too much speed coming to a T intersection in the wet and realized I wasn’t going to make it. To make matters worse the crossing traffic didn’t have a stop and there was a car coming. Some quick back-of-the-napkin calculus said the two of us were going to come to that intersection at the same time. Wow. Ok. This was it. This is how I die. Huh. At this point I knew anything I did was going to be pointless, so why not just throw crap at the wall and see what sticks? Brake pedal to the floor, trans in low, whip the rear around to come into the intersection parallel-ish with the main road. Maybe I accidentally get some traction and make the turn. Heh. Prolly not. Sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiide... I go through the intersection sideways just a fraction of a second after the other car went past. Luckily I suck at calculus. Also lucky for me there was a very shallow ditch on the other side of the main road that caught me without flipping me and I was able to drive out. Slowly. Which is how I drove home. Hey, look at that! I can come up with the scratch to make repairs. Turns out it was just a matter of adjusting priorities, which a little bit of luck allowed me to do.

It’s amazing how much car repairs can move up your list of expenses, as soon as they prove themselves to be really, really necessary.

Submitted by: Harmon20

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14 / 17

I Would Have to Tell You if I Was a Cop, It’s Cop Rules

I Would Have to Tell You if I Was a Cop, It’s Cop Rules

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Photo: Charlie from United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

NERVOUSLY LOOKS AROUND

What, you a cop?

Joking aside, pretty much any of the good stories aren’t worth telling because they were either questionably or entirely not legal, or more likely, comes off as a self congratulatory HJ on skills that aren’t there.
I lived in ski resorts for close to a decade, half of that driving the I-70 corridor all hours of the day and night, I’ve seen some crazy stuff and whiffed a few close calls for sure.

AHA! Luckiest save, I was hitchiking home from a ski resort and got picked up by a guy I saw riding the terrain park all day and had caught the two person chair with a few times. On his last run he had slipped off a very large rainbow rail and caught it to the chest, apparently this broke some ribs but he was kind of shrugging it off. We were coming back from Keystone, over Loveland Pass, when mid conversation he nods off like the dose hit, his old chevy box pickup started lurching to the right towards the cliff. I made a few hurried “Hey man wtf” panic yells and reached across the bench to grab the wheel while trying to stomp a snowboard boot onto the brake pedal or at the very least get his foot off the gas. I got the car to a rest without incident and he came to a few dozen seconds later wondering what the fuck had happened. I told him, he relayed how he must have passed out from the pain, and kepth thanking me for saving his life.
I saw that guy up there on and off in the park for 4 or so years afterwards and he always said HEY DUDE! IT’S THE GUY WHO SAVED MY LIFE! like clockwork

You meet the best people when you’re out on the slopes. Fellow snowboarders will never do you harm, I’ve discovered.

Submitted by: Markoff8585

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15 / 17

Kids, That’s What Lift-Off Oversteer Means

Kids, That’s What Lift-Off Oversteer Means

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Photo: Shadman Samee from Dhaka, Bangladesh, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

My luckiest save was also at the race track, Laguna Seca specifically. I was there for Miata reunion in my new to me ND Miata, that I had gotten about 6 months prior. I’ve owned a couple RWD vehicles before, but I’ve never taken any to a track before, so I was quite excited to go to Laguna Seca as my first track day! I had an instructor with me for the first couple of sessions, and he was actually super helpful. As I got more confident in the track, he would push me just a little bit more to help me extract more out of the car. It was turn 4 and you can carry a lot of speed through that corner, and I was pushing relatively hard and I hit a bump mid corner. Fun thing about ND1 Miatas is that the suspension is super soft and with the car loaded up in a right hand turn, that bump was enough upset the rear of the car. I probably could have saved it with a bit of countersteer, but in that moment, I did the one thing that you’re not supposed to do and lifted off, which then caused the back to lose it entirely causing me to spin, go sideways through the gravel and stop about 4 feet from the tire barrier. I was lucky not to put my new Miata in the wall. Right after that event, I went and bought a new set of springs and anti roll bars. The car handles a lot better now and I have had a chance to get some more track days under my belt as well. This is actually a picture of me from that event.

Springs and sways are nice, but I’m glad you’re investing in that driver mod too. Nothing beats seat time.

Submitted by: Anthony McClinton

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16 / 17

I Wouldn’t Be Surprised If Planes Were Easier To Steer

I Wouldn’t Be Surprised If Planes Were Easier To Steer

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Photo: Jeremy from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

In high school I had a third gen 4Runner that had some really unpredictable electric gremlins and I never put in the effort to fix them until it was too late. One night after a long day of finals and hanging out with a group of friends, I left a popular hiking spot to drive home. It was about one in the morning and the roads were covered in a decent layer of ice, which we don’t get super often in my area of the Denver suburbs. Regardless, I trudged through and eventually made it to a main road a few miles from my parent’s house.

This road was somehow even worse than the rural backroads I took to get to that point. And my invincible attitude at the time didn’t stop me from cruising at 60 mph. Suddenly the headlights and entire dashboard flickered and the car completely died on me. I had no power steering, brakes, lights, or power to the engine. I’d never driven a car without power steering before so it felt like I was steering a plane into certain death. Luckily, I remembered that shifting into manual mode might still work, so I tried that and tried to brake as much as I could and I coasted it slowly into a ravine. I called my parents and they eventually got to me, and jumpstarted the 4Runner. Somehow it worked and I got the car home, and it never ran the same again after multiple major repairs.

Is it bad that this story makes me want a 4Runner even more? Give me a cool, old, kinda-broken off-roader that I can diagnose.

Submitted by: Colorado_Car_Enthusiast

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