It’s a petrifying situation to be in when you’re driving fast on a freeway or highway and suddenly realise that your car brakes have failed you. A situation like this is not only a direct threat to your life but also to the people in your vicinity. Fret not, there’re ways to avoid a catastrophe in case this were to happen.

Here’s what you do.

1. First of all, do not panic.

Sounds like rhetorical advice really, but the truth nonetheless. The first concern that needs to be on your mind is to have it present and calm enough to take care of the situation.

2. Remove your foot off the pedal and switch off cruise control.

Obviously, you need to relieve from accelerating the car and if you’re vehicle has cruise control you will have to switch that off too.

3. Pump your brakes if the pressure feels low.

If the brakes are loose when you press them it might indicate low fluid, in which case you could pump the brakes to rebuild pressure. This may take a while, so keep trying. If you feel like you might have built enough pressure, regardless of whether your car has ABS, press down on the brakes all the way to make most of the built up pressure.

4. Shift into lower gears.

Down shifting to lower gears will help slow the car down using the engine. Remember to shift gears gradually, maybe two at a time, to avoid losing control of the car.

5. Use the hand brake.

Now, this would require a bit control since the hand brake only works on the rear wheels, and pulling it too quickly might have you lose control of the car and skid. So, you need to keep your eyes on the road at all times.

6. If there’s enough room on the road to either side, sway right and left in a zig-zag.

Again, carefully enough, sway to the right and then the left in a zig-zag patter. This will help create a certain amount of friction to slow the car down, at a much slower pace though. Although, avoid doing this if you’re going very fast, that might make you skid and lose control.

7. Use you’re surroundings to slow down, and if need be, to pull over or crash. 

An inclined road, gaurdrails, gravel or dirt could all be used to create enough friction to slow down your car. But, of course, as a last resort you might have to find a spot to crash into if you feel your speed is safe enough to do that. A line of bushes or hedges, or in the worst case the back of another car, can be used to crash to halt. Keep in mind, crashing to a stop should be the last resort if all else fails.

8. Keep your seat belts on, switch on hazard lights and honk the horn as much as you can.

Considering that at this point the situation is just as dangerous to the people around you as it is to you, switch on the hazard lights, honk and make a spectacle of the situation to grab everyone’s attention to the emergency.

Good luck. Safe driving.