When it comes to skidding, prevention really is the best medicine. You can't always get yourself out of skidding situations. Taking necessary steps to prevent a big problem can go a long way to keep you and your passengers safe.
How you should react really depends on the road conditions and how fast you are driving. Obviously, your tires will have a lot more traction for steering and braking when road conditions are idea -- warm and dry. You also need to constantly evaluate road conditions and potential hazards whenever you drive. Bumpy, wet, or unpaved road surfaces will not provide you with the same traction performance as a smooth, dry road surface.
- How technology helps you: Your car does a few things to prevent skidding, usually without you even noticing. Modern safety systems like anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Traction control systems can do a lot to keep your tires planted firmly on the road. But these systems can only do so much to keep you from skidding. For instance, anti-lock brakes are intended to help you slow down quickly and retain some steering control in order to avoid obstacles in your way. But this system can't keep your car on the road if you take a hairpin turn way too fast.
- Slow down for bad weather. Rainy roads are slippery. Wet roads covered in a thin film of dirt and oil provide even less traction. Snow and ice can turn what used to be a good roadway into a downhill ski slope for cars. When your traction goes away, your tires can't maintain traction when you try to brake hard or make sudden steering changes. So you need to carefully plan ahead for the conditions where you are driving. Consider using snow chains when conditions are really bad.
- Plan for the worst. Never assume that the far side of a hill or sharp turn is clear. You should never go so fast that you cannot stop within your sight distance.
- Things you can do: Now that we've talked about safety systems installed in most cars and good planning, let's talk about what to do if your car is on the verge of skidding.
Preventing your car from skidding is based on a very simple principle: your tires can only provide so much traction in any particular circumstance. Do not ask them to do too much. There are two occasions where cars are most likely to skid:
- Braking hard during emergency stops. In most situations, if you have anti-lock brakes, you can simply press the brake pedal firmly towards the floor, and the computer controlled system should prevent the tires from "locking up" or skidding. This works by creating very fast braking pulses.
If you drive a car without anti-lock brakes, then your tires will skid if you simply press hard on the brake pedal. If you don't have anti lock brakes, then you will need to press firmly, yet carefully on the brake pedal. If the tires begin to squeal or traction begins to fade, then you are probably pressing too hard and the tires are on the verge of skidding. Let up a little on the brake pedal until traction is regained and resume pressure.
- Turning around a sharp curve. When you approach any curve, you need to adjust your speed to an acceptable rate before beginning to turn. This applies just as much to an Indy Car driver as it does to a teenage driver. Slow down before you begin turning. Once you are about half way through a turn, you can begin applying gas again.
If you do begin to skid during a turn, pressing the brakes will not help you at all. Rather pressing the brake pedal while turning will cause you to lose even more traction. If you find yourself in this situation, it may be too late to do anything but try to keep the car on the road.