Half a dozen people wrote to say that they'd had this experience, and mail arrived from all over the United States informing me that the CHP's advice left something to be desired:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I decided we'd try the CHP's suggestions on our way to church. Here's what we learned: It was almost impossible to pull my husband's foot off the gas pedal. I had to grab his pant leg while trying to watch the road -- not an easy task! Also, if the car has a console -- ours does -- the passenger can't reach the brake. (Perhaps downshifting would work better?) -- CONNIE AND TERRY, COEUR D'ALENE, IDAHO
DEAR ABBY: The passenger should be shown or reminded in advance where the cruise control switch or button is, so she can turn it off if it has been activated. -- NANCY IN ERIE, PA.
DEAR ABBY: The first thing the passenger should do is put the transmission into neutral to slow the vehicle, regardless of whether or not the driver's foot is on the accelerator. -- ARCHIE T., VALLEJO, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: This happened to my husband and me. When it happens, it happens very quickly. I grabbed the wheel with my left hand and, as we started crossing into oncoming traffic, tried to avoid hitting anyone. Foremost in anyone's mind in that situation should be to get the driver's foot off the gas. To heck with the turn signal!
This happens more than people realize. The year before the accident, my husband's car was totaled because the driver of an oncoming car passed out, crossed the line and hit him. -- GLAD TO BE ALIVE, CHARLESTON, S.C.
DEAR ABBY: My diabetic husband had low blood sugar while driving on a five-lane highway. I was later told that had I used my emergency flasher, someone with a cell phone would have called the police and they would have assisted me in getting off the highway. At the time I didn't even know we HAD a flasher. Now I know -- and my husband eats something before we get into heavy traffic. -- ELLA IN WALDON, N.Y.
DEAR READERS: Needless to say, after reading the above letters, I contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in Washington, D.C. In a nutshell, here's what they told me:
"While your advice was accurate, we're more concerned about the reason behind the question, and the message that it's safe to drive with occasional loss of consciousness as long as one has a co-pilot. Relying on another person in a vehicle to take control is neither responsible nor safe.
"If a person experiences loss of consciousness for any reason, they need to stop driving until they are treated by a doctor who gives them permission to resume driving. This means they'll have to find another means of transportation, at least temporarily. Families have a role to play. If they are aware of the risk, they need to tell the state licensing agency and the doctor."