Imagine you’re speeding along the highway and your brakes fail. Would you know what to do? Would you know how to save a friend who is choking, or someone pinned under the burning wreckage in a car accident? Consider these less common but still possible scenarios: you’re skydiving and your parachute won’t open. You’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake. You’re facing a wall of water from a killer tsunami. Could you make it out alive?

Premiering on Jan. 2 with two half-hour episodes, National Geographic Channel’s new series, “Do or Die,” puts your survival instincts to the test with an interactive program that lets you choose between three plans of action — and explains why only one will save your life. Base Productions’ Mickey Stern, the series' executive producer, worked with his co-creators and Dr. Maurizio Miglietta, former head of trauma surgury at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, to develop the real-life situations covered in the series.

“Our team spends countless hours researching the most interesting and dramatic stories, sifting cyberspace and our extensive pool of contacts around the world,” says Stern. “We have always tried to emphasize riveting human drama, a wide variety of compelling stories, and a careful balance between shocking situations and relevant material. Although some of our stories may never happen to some of us — like a raging bull leaping from a bullfight arena into the stands — many other ‘Do or Die’ moments are very, very relevant. Although every situation is different and there are never any rulebooks for situations like this, we honestly believe that this show could — and probably will — save someone's life.”

Each scenario is heavily researched and its analysis vetted with “scientists, industry experts, survival instructors and even survivors of similar situations … to generate options and bust as many myths as they can along the way,” says Stern. “For example, in a story featuring a rampaging tornado, we thoroughly bust the myth that hiding under a highway overpass is a good idea. It's possibly one of the worst places to be under certain circumstances. That’s really important information. And when you see the science, footage and animations that show why you should consider certain options and not others, it's absolutely mind-blowing.”

To get a taste of the different scenarios, check out either of the two videos below. Do you know how you would handle these situations?

Stern believes these situations are particularly compelling because “they’re pure illustrations of human drama, and they play out in visceral, highly visual ways. When we see these incredible life-or-death moments unfold, our jaws drop and we simultaneously wonder ‘Is that person going to survive?’ and ‘What would I do if that happened to me?’ It's like watching a great movie and playing an immersive video game at the same time ... but the stakes are real.”

And universal. Stern points out that we face potentially life-threatening situations “every time we drive our cars, cross the street, get on a plane, experience harsh weather, go swimming or diving or shopping or skiing. We make an infinite number of choices and decisions that could have a huge range of consequences. Fortunately, I've never been in a situation dramatic enough to qualify for the show, but if I ever do, I feel like I am far more prepared now than I would have been without ‘Do or Die.’ And if it happens, I'll be sure to catch it on video!”

Stern already has an extensive collection of material for a second season, if more episodes beyond the initial 16 are ordered. “In a way, that's exactly the point: ‘Do or Die’ situations happen all of the time, whether we like it or not, our hectic, mechanized, ever-accelerating modern life is more dramatic every year. And the more we stare at our cellphones, drive when distracted, and otherwise disconnect from the world around us, the more likely we are to wander into a life-threatening situation. These real-life dramas will happen more and more often, and we hope that this series will help people to be more prepared.”

While the dramatic situations, visuals and play-along elements make for compelling viewing, it’s the learning factor that makes “Do or Die” must-see TV, believes Stern. “It really could save a life,” he says. “I hope that people are also inspired to give their own daily decisions a little more conscious thought. Their lives — or the lives of people they love — could depend on it.”

Watching this TV show could save your life
"Do or Die," National Geographic's new series, puts viewers' survival skills to the test.