Dr. Traffic

These tips can help keep you safe in a highway emergency

Alastair Tegui-in, 26, died on Interstate 485 in Charlotte after he stopped to help a stranded teen.
Alastair Tegui-in, 26, died on Interstate 485 in Charlotte after he stopped to help a stranded teen. WBTV

A 17-year-old girl was on the side of the road at 4:30 a.m., signaling for help with a flat tire. So Alastair Tegui-in pulled over in front of her BMW on Interstate 485’s Inner Loop near Harrisburg Road.

Before he reached her, the unthinkable happened. A van came along and, in the morning darkness, Tegui-in, 26, was gone.

There are so many people who, like Tegui-in, would stop if they saw someone – friend or stranger – stranded and in need of help.

Born in the Philippines, Tegui-in attended high school in Pinehurst before moving to Charlotte, where he worked as a personal trainer, according to his obituary. But on that day, March 5, Tegui-in was a Good Samaritan.

Concern for our own well-being so often doesn’t undo that instinct to be of service. The examples we see every day range from simple to extreme. Tegui-in, whose family said goodbye to him on Saturday in Pinehurst, seemed to embody that spirit of humanity that day.

As I learned details about that Sunday morning, I wondered what we need to know to better protect ourselves in a similar situation. If we feel compelled to help, how should we maneuver in an inherently dangerous scenario?

I contacted Lt. Jeff Gordon of the N.C. Highway Patrol. He offered these tips on being prepared for a roadside emergency:

Make sure you have a tire-changing kit in your vehicle. Also carry a roadside emergency kit. It might include highway flares to make your vehicle more visible to oncoming traffic, tire sealant, jumper cables and a flashlight.

Have your spare tire checked to make sure it’s inflated properly the next time you get the oil changed. The four tires on the vehicle should be checked as a part of the oil-change service, but ask to be sure.

When a tire blows out, most people hit the brakes, but braking can make it more difficult to control a vehicle. Instead, lower your speed and move to the right side of the road.

More often, though, tires go flat gradually. This means you should have time to get off the road or interstate. Turn on your emergency lights and drive slowly.

Gordon said he changed enough tires as a state trooper to know that the flat-tire side of a vehicle needs to be sitting on pavement in order for a jack to lift it. A grassy area won’t do. Try to reach a service station, retail parking lot or, at the very least, an exit ramp.

At this point, Gordon recommends calling for roadside assistance. The driver will have the equipment to take care of the job quickly. Meanwhile, the truck can be used as a buffer between your vehicle and traffic.

If you don’t have a contract for roadside service, check out a few how-to videos on changing a tire. Do this before you get behind the wheel.

Karen Sullivan: kmsulliv@charlotteobserver.com, @Sullivan_kms