During freezing winter weather many of us have experienced that terrifying moment when we begin to skid and lose control of our vehicle. Of course, we’ve probably received advice somewhere along the line telling us to ‘steer into a skid’. However, when a skid begins you only have milliseconds to react, and most of us don’t have superfast reactions, or indeed the skills of a professional rally driver to avoid a skid once it starts. So surely, isn’t it best to avoid skidding in the first place, or at least reduce greatly the possibility of it happening?
First of all though, why not ask yourself whether you really need to make that journey in the first place. If so, make sure that you are prepared to embark on your journey by ensuring that you have a snow chain which can help with gaining grip on the road surface in extremely conditions.
Having established that your journey is necessary, the smooth and gentle use of the accelerator pedal is the order of the day when it comes to driving in snow and ice as your tyres will be struggling for grip. The fitting of winter tyres can help, but even then, if conditions are at their worst, driving at all during the worst that winter can through at us will remain hazardous.
Until quite recently, UK motorists rarely adopted the Continental practice of swapping tyres in the autumn for winter types, and then switching back in the spring to their normal tyres. Recent very cold winters have seen attitudes changing. As a result many garages, service centres and tyre fitters now offer a ‘Winter Tyre Fitting Service’ where they’ll sell you a set of winter tyres, store your normal ones free of charge, and then re-fit them all for one reasonable set price.
Having established that your journey is necessary, with tyres struggling for grip, the smooth and gentle use of the accelerator pedal is the order of the day when it comes to driving in snow and ice. Accelerate and decelerate too violently in slippery wintry conditions and you’re likely to come a cropper and find yourself in a skid situation. The sensitive use of the throttle will assist when it comes to maintaining control of your vehicle.
It’s also extremely important to selection of the right gear for the conditions you face. Driving in too high a gear will reduce your control as the vehicle responds during acceleration and deceleration. What’s more, it raises fuel consumption and can increase engine wear as the engine will be revving highly unnecessarily.
Steer as gently as possible and drive at an appropriate speed for the weather conditions. Antilock brakes and stability systems found on modern cars will help, but if you’re moving too quickly you’re likely to come off the road or hit something, or perhaps, someone!
It’s advisable to double the distance between you and the vehicle in front, so leave four car lengths for every 10mph you are travelling. Remain vigilant, read the road ahead, try to anticipate problems and be ready to react. Remember that if you are forced to act quickly and therefore abruptly, you could easily find yourself in difficulties.
Use the gears to slow yourself down as much as possible by using the lowest gear possible. If you need to use the brakes ensure that you apply them gently.
Gaining experience in controlling a skid might well should the worst happen. With this in mind, there are plenty of companies out there offering skid control courses. These can be found on the web.