Could you do what this 12-year-old did on Route 95?

Average Massachusetts adults probably believe they would know what to do in a traffic emergency. Most people would not expect a child to act with certainty and swiftness in the face of danger. The true test for cool-headed competence comes before, during or after a motor vehicle accident.

Twelve-year-olds aren’t old enough to have to know the rules of the road. That makes it all the more rare to hear the courageous and common-sense story of a 12-year-old Dracut boy who avoided a potential crash while helping to save his sick father’s life.

The boy and his 9-year-old sister were passengers in their father’s car. The adult suffered a seizure on Route 95 near the Route 128 ramp in Peabody. The 12-year-old responded with calm, immediately placing a call to 911 using his father’s cellphone.

As he was talking with dispatchers, the child took the wheel and steered the driverless car safely to the side of the road.

Emergency dispatchers said the boy gave clear details while he was guiding the car to a breakdown lane at an off ramp. Reports did not say whether the child or the stricken adult used the brakes.

The quick-thinking 12-year-old had not forgotten his frightened sister. Once the vehicle was off the highway and stopped, he removed the girl from the car and placed her behind a protective guardrail.

Emergency preparedness skills are essential tools for the prevention of auto accidents, injuries and fatalities. Someone who is not an adult and never learned those skills may only act on instinct. It would be difficult to believe a child that is 12-years-old had enough experience with danger to know what to do under such unusual circumstances.

Source: Boston Herald, “Dracut boy, 12, steers car to safety after dad falls ill,” John Zaremba, Sept. 8, 2012