Winter driving - how to handle dangerous skids
Winter driving is one of the downsides of the season, accidents become more frequent and people have to be on their guard when taking the car out on even the shortest of journeys. One of the most dangerous driving hazard in winter and possibly the scariest, if you’ve ever experienced it, is skidding. Even more so at a high speeds, the result can be deadly. The good news is that most skids can be avoided by simply adjusting to driving conditions and knowing how to recover the right way.
The most likely place for skids to occur is on curves and turns, so slow down ahead of time to prepare for them. Once on the curve, accelerate slowly and steer steadily with no abrupt change in direction and, especially, no abrupt braking. Driving smoothly in general can help prevent skids.
Safety techniques when skidding
If despite all efforts you end up in a skid, remember two critical rules:
- Don't steer against the skid
- Avoid using the brakes
Instead, immediately take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction the vehicle is sliding until you feel recovery of traction, then slowly straighten the wheels until you recover complete control. If the back of your vehicle is fishtailing to the right, turn the wheel gently in that direction until your car recovers.
If you need to break before traction is recovered, apply the brake pedal cautiously so you do not lock the wheels and intensify the skid. Check if your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, as this will also give you better brake control.
Be on the lookout for areas that might induce skidding, such as unexpected ice patches or piles of wet leaves, which tend to be found in shady areas or on flyovers. Keep in mind that wet ice, warmed by the sun, is twice as dangerous as completely frozen ice. Be especially alert whenever there is any kind of precipitation during cold weather.
General winter driving tips
Since accidents are more common in winter, caution whilst driving is essential. Whilst driving on slippery roads reduce speed and increase following distance behind the vehicle ahead. This gives an additional space cushion for safe stopping. If possible, and safe, then practise driving in slippery conditions so you are well-prepared and comfortable.
Stopping safely on icy or snow-packed roads is a tricky manoeuvre that requires skill and good judgement.
- Anticipate stops by slowing down gradually, well ahead of junctions. And allow for more than enough time to stop safely.
- Plan ahead of time for lane changes; check your rear view mirror, your blind spots and signal your intentions to traffic behind you. Then, swing over in a long, gradual line. Make the move with the smallest possible steering change and with a light foot on the accelerator.
- When you drive into deep snow, stepping on the accelerator may cause the wheels to spin, with little if any forward movement. In such cases, avoid over-accelerating. A light foot on the accelerator and a high gear is most effective.
Ensure Your Safety
Whenever you will be driving in any weather, be sure your vehicle is properly equipped. Your brakes should be functioning correctly, and your tyres should be properly inflated with a good tread surface. Sometimes snow tyres, and even chains, may be best to help keep your vehicle under control during dangerous winter conditions.