How Not To Skid

If you are still scraping ice from your windscreen in the morning, the potential danger of ice on the road remains. Ice makes driving particularly hazardous and many drivers are still caught out at this time of year because they fail to "read the road". Bends, hills and parked vehicles are all suddenly more difficult to negotiate.

What causes a skid? Many people blame poor road conditions, but that isn’t true; a skid is almost always the result of a driver’s actions. If you have ever been in a skid, you will probably remember that you were either changing speed or direction - or both - just before you started skidding.

You have a limited amount of tyre grip available and your vehicle will skid when one or more of the tyres loses normal grip on the road. Using the brakes, accelerator and steering applies a force that can cause a skid if it overcomes the force that keeps the tyres gripped on the road surface. And it takes much less force to break the grip of the tyres on a slippery road surface.

The forces that can break the grip of the tyres on the road and cause a skid are:

  • Excessive speed for the conditions
  • Coarse steering combined with a speed that isn’t in itself excessive
  • Braking suddenly, or harshly or
  • Heavy acceleration

Minimise the risk of skidding by taking note of the road and weather conditions. Motorcyclists do this automatically, but car drivers tend to just scrape the windscreen and then set off without acknowledging that the road surface may be less than perfect in places.

When the roads are slippery, use the controls - brakes, steering, and accelerator gently, to avoid skidding: it’s far easier to avoid a skid than correct one. If you do start to skid, your first action should be to remove the cause. If excessive speed is the cause (it’s the most common one) take your foot off the accelerator and steer smoothly in the direction of the skid until the tyres regain their grip, then steer back onto your intended course. In icy or wet conditions, get into the habit of doubling your normal following distance.

20 February 2006 Staff

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