Steering the vehicle in the direction you wish to go is the best way to react to a skid situation. Drivers should look where they want the vehicle to go. This method is akin to steering in the opposite direction of the hood. Years ago, driving schools would instruct their students to steer in the direction of the skid. This teaching method was difficult to grasp for most new drivers. It involved thinking where the back of the vehicle was going, before remedial action could be taken. By the time new drivers figured out which direction the back of their car was moving, it was too late for any successful corrective action.
When in a skid, looking where you want the vehicle to go keeps the learner concentrating on the direction in front of the vehicle. Asking a driver to steer opposite the direction of the hood is a teaching technique used when the “look where you want to go” instruction may be too vague. It is important to turn the steering wheel in a manner directly proportional to the skid.
Most drivers oversteer in their initial reaction to a loss of traction. The second wheel turn necessary to compensate for the second skid, is when most drivers lose control of their vehicle. Their adrenalin is pumping so hard and fast that the over-steer acts like a whiplash effect.
Most drivers panic when in a skid. They get so excited that they grip the wheel hard and turn fast. The proper way to steer the wheel in a skid is with a light touch and a slight under-steer, which can be re-adjusted and expanded without the resulting whiplash effect.
Black ice is the most dangerous of all winter road surfaces. It is often impossible to tell if you are travelling on black ice. If the driver cannot hear the tire noise with the window rolled down, chances are the vehicle is on black ice.
The best course of action on black ice is to gradually lift your foot off the accelerator and allow the vehicle to slow until you feel comfortable with the safer speed. Stop, get out and inspect the road surface. Never brake dramatically to test traction. This will induce an unnecessary skid. If it is not possible to stop, use your four-way flashers to warn others.
Ice on the road is visible. Ice radial tires are very effective. When driving on ice, it is a good idea to perform all driving actions in what seems to be slow motion. This gives you and others ample time and distance to react to a skid.
Stay in the ruts made by other vehicles when in deep snow. If a driver moves too close to the shoulder, heavy wet-saturated snow will pull the vehicle into the ditch.
If the surface of the road is ice, covered with fresh-fallen light snow, it is better to stay out of the ruts and gain mid-lane and shoulder traction.
Most drivers never actually practise skid control. It is a good idea to go to an empty parking lot and practise skid control. It is very educational and can be a lot of fun as well. After all, practice does make perfect. Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas. Steve is a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.
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