One of the most frightening, not to mention dangerous experiences for a driver is a skid, when reduced traction causes a loss of steering and braking control.
On average, each year in Saskatchewan more than 8,500 crashes occur when road or weather conditions are poor. These collisions result in an average of 1,530 injuries and 21 deaths annually.
Skids usually take place on slippery surfaces like water, snow and ice when drivers brake or accelerate too fast or turn too sharply.
Ways to prevent your vehicle from skidding are:
- Scan the road to identify potential hazards. Be aware of what's in front of your vehicle and give yourself ample time to brake or avoid a trouble spot.
- Know when and where to use cruise control. Never use cruise control on gravel or when roads are wet or slippery.
- Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Under ideal road conditions, allow a 3-second gap between vehicles and you'll have the time and space needed for sudden stops. When conditions are poor, double the gap to at least 6 seconds.
- Ensure your vehicle has appropriate tires. Winter tires are best on icy and snow-covered roads because they improve traction and help you maintain control of your vehicle. Studded tires are a good choice on wet ice when the temperature is near zero, but they don't outperform other winter tires in freezing conditions.
Even the most skilled drivers can find themselves in a skid. If it happens to you, it's important to know what to do:
- Remain calm. Apply steady pressure to the brakes, shifting to neutral and searching for traction. Your tires will often find better traction if you move out of the slippery tracks in your lane.
- If your vehicle is equipped with an Antilock Braking System (ABS), it's less likely you'll skid when braking. ABS is designed to prevent skidding, even on slippery surfaces like snow and ice. ABS won't help you stop any faster, but you can apply the brakes and still have the ability to steer around vehicles or other hazards.
- If your vehicle doesn't have ABS, apply steady pressure but don't allow the brakes to lock.
- A common mistake is to look where you don't want to go, like into another vehicle or a pole. If you don't want to hit something then don't focus on it.
- If you find yourself in a situation where the back of your car is skidding to 1 side, shift to neutral, look where you want to go and steer in that direction.
No matter how your vehicle is equipped, your best defense against a skid is still avoiding the situation altogether. Take a few simple precautions and you'll arrive at your destinations safely.