It’s not common for us to think of a vehicle as a defensive tool; at least it is far removed from mainstream thinking. We view our vehicles in many different ways, some utilitarian and others more lovingly. However, to my philosophical approach, when you are behind the wheel of the family sedan or your favorite sports car, you are in fact at the controls of the largest projectile you will ever fire.

If things get bad one day, what you do with—and how you handle that vehicle in a time of crisis—may very well tip the scales of the outcome one way or the other.

What we will do here is explain the mechanics of a vehicle as they apply to performance driving, as well as some basic skills that, if you practice on occasion, just may save your life or the life of a loved one.

According to Daniel Webster, the very definition of a crisis is: A time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.

Unfortunately for us, these things tend to happen very quickly and usually at the most inopportune times. Hopefully when bad things happen, we are well armed and/or well trained to address any violence directed towards us. After all, what you bring into the fight both physically and mentally determines whether the outcome will be in your favor.

If you are like me, a large part of our time is spent behind the wheel of an automobile. So, why not think of it also as a tool. A tool of great versatility, when properly handled, can perform a multitude of tasks.

There are many skills that we can learn to use while driving a car. Ways to turn, brake, push a vehicle out of the way, rotate another vehicle that may want to do us harm, or just the best way to accelerate and get out of Dodge if things are going badly. In this series of articles we will touch on most of them.

We are going to start by learning a vehicle-driving procedure that has always been one of my favorites. We have all seen it on television and in the movies. A vehicle is driving down the road, and for whatever reason the driver decides he wants to go the other direction. We watch, and the vehicle seems to defy all we know of physics and the law of forward momentum. As if by magic, it turns 180 degrees, almost in place.


Driving in a straight line, downshift or emergency brake and turn of the wheel to the inside of the turn.


Rear wheels lock and the front of the vehicle enters the skid.


Vehicle enters the 90-degree arc of the turn.


As you pass thru the 90-degree point release the E-brake or shift up on the gears.


Spin the wheel back in the direction opposite the turn.


Final corrections on the steering wheel and begin to add acceleration.


With direction reversed, add power and drive away from the problem.


You have just witnessed a bootleg turn.

The name of the turn originated from bootleggers transporting illegal liquor. It was a technique that was used to maneuver and escape from the police or federal revenue agents.

The maneuver may also be called a smugglers turn or a power slide, depending upon whom you talk to.

In essence it is not a difficult procedure to master, but first you must understand a few basic elements of a vehicle in motion.

The sole contact any vehicle has with the ground are the four small oblong patches of rubber where the tires meet the road. They are not much bigger than a footprint, yet they are all that controls a car’s performance and keeps a car in control.

Understand these points of adhesion have their limitations. Think of each of these four patches of rubber as having the ability to give 100 percent implementation in a straight and direct un-accelerated line.

If we add a variable into the equation, such as acceleration, braking, or turning, that 100 percent is downgraded by X percent. X represents the amount of additional function that we are asking that patch of rubber to accomplish.

Everyone who drives should understand that under hard braking, a vehicle becomes unstable, just as it does during a turn. Therefore, we should not apply too much gas or brake while turning. Our best and most effective braking is done while proceeding in a straight line.

All other factors that we ask of the tires’ point of contact with the road will reduce the percentage of adhesion that the vehicle has.

This is considered a bad thing, but as your driving skills increase you may learn that it is not always so. Sometimes un-sticking the tires from the road enables the vehicle to accomplish tasks that we may find useful.

The name of the turn originated from bootleggers transporting illegal liquor. It was a technique that was used to maneuver and escape from the police or federal revenue agents.




Like the bootleg turn. In this evolution, the lack of adhesion to the road when we ask the vehicle to turn aids the maneuver.

A bootleg turn in essence is intended to reverse the direction of a forward-moving automobile by 180 degrees in a minimum amount of time, while staying within the width of a two-lane road.

To make the proper bootleg turn we drive in a direction down a normal two-lane road at, give or take, 30 miles per hour. The turn is performed thus:

In a manual transmission car:

• First, down-shift the vehicle into second gear.

• Second, quickly turn the wheel in the direction of the opposite lane.

• The vehicle will enter a controlled skid, enter the opposite lane, and turn completely around.

In a perfect bootleg turn, the car will be at a complete stop at the end of the maneuver and ready to accelerate and depart in the opposite direction.

In an automatic transmission car we have to modify the classic bootleg turn and use a brake turn. If we apply the parking or emergency brake it only actuates the rear wheels, thereby forcing the car into a fishtail around the locked rear wheels.

• First, we drive down the road in a similar manner and speed.

• Second, we then apply the parking brake while turning the wheel in the direction of the opposite lane.

• Third, as the car completes the turn, we release the parking brake and are ready to commence forward travel in the other direction.

It’s just that easy. All it takes is a little practice to get the feel of the maneuver.

A little about parking brakes: Hand-actuated parking brakes are easier to operate during the busy turn, but if all you have is a foot parking brake, it will have to do.

You engage the brake at the beginning of the turn, and remove the brake as the turn is completed and you are facing the opposite direction of travel.

You have just learned the fundamentals of a turn that can be classified as a May-Save-Your-Life Driving Tip.