During the holiday season people are often driving a little faster than usual. Everyone seems to be in a hurry, whether they're on their way to Grandma's house for a holiday dinner, or just doing some last minute holiday shopping the night before Christmas.
On top of this, there are more people on the roads. It's pretty common to travel during the holiday season. When you are driving unfamiliar roads on your way to a relative's or friend's house, you are often more likely to be careless, perhaps talking on your cell phone or looking at a map while driving.
Finally, if you live in a traditional "white Christmas" area, your kids may be enjoying the snow, but you are probably noticing that the roads are more slippery than normal! Ice, snow, and freezing rain can transform a normally safe road into a dangerous accident prone zone.
You can give yourself an edge by using a speed camera detector to alert you to black spot accident zones, but sometimes accidents happen in safe zones too, if the roads are super icy.
With all these additional aspects of driving during the holidays, you definitely want to avoid getting into an accident. But unfortunately, you have to admit you are at more risk because of the dangerous conditions and other elements, such as more people on the road, and stressed drivers.
Don't worry - with some careful precautions you can avoid an accident during the holiday season. It just means educating yourself ahead of time and taking wise precautions.
What sorts of accidents are most common? Well, one very common type of accident is caused when your car or vehicle begins to skid. So let's look at how skids are caused and how you can prevent skidding. Then we'll discuss how you can get your car back under control if you do happen to experience a skid on icy roads during the holidays.
Here are some simple strategies you can use to stay in control of your vehicle. These will help keep your passengers safe as well as prevent unnecessary damage to your car.
How to Prevent a Skid During the Holiday Season
Obviously, the ideal situation is to avoid skidding out of control in the first place. You definitely would prefer not to skid at all. How can you avoid skidding on those wet roads this holiday season? Keep these tips in mind:
- Weather conditions are more important than the posted speed limit. In bad weather drive more slowly; whether or not the signs say you can be going 65 miles an hour is irrelevant if 60 mph is the highest you feel you can safely drive. Pay attention to the weather outside and be prepared to adapt your speed to meet the conditions.
- Focus on your driving alone. Don't multi-task, especially when conditions are especially icy and wet. That means keeping both hands on the wheel, not turning around to talk to passengers in the back seat, not talking on your cell phone, not eating or drinking at the wheel.
- Drive defensively. This means before making a turn or rounding a sharp bend, slow down. Don't wait until you feel yourself starting to slide. Assume that other drivers are dumb - don't ride their tails or imagine they know what you're going to do. Always use your turn signals and don't hang out in someone else's blind spot.
So what should you do if you've done everything right and still you end up skidding? First, stay calm. Don't panic. The most important thing is to correct the skid. So let's look at exactly how you do that.
How to Correct a Skid in Bad Weather
There are actually two types of skid. You should be familiar with both. It's not important that you remember what they're called or all the technical details. Obviously when you are actually skidding you are not going to be thinking to yourself, "Hmmm, is this a fish-tail skid or a straight-line skid?" You want your reaction to be instant and reflexive. But if you know how these skids work and what to do, you will be able to react appropriately.
Here are the two types of skid:
With this kind of skid, what happens is that your entire vehicle drifts over to one side. It is actually pretty simple to correct a straight-line skid as long as you keep your wits and stay calm.
To fix a straight-line skid, immediately take your foot off the gas. In a moment, you should feel that the drifting has stopped. When your tires feel like they have decent traction on the road again, you need to very carefully steer your vehicle back into the center of the lane where it drifted away from.
But if you find that you continue to drift even after you've removed your foot from the gas, you can still correct the skid. In this case, tap your brake very lightly while steering. Don't slam on the brakes or you will make the skid worse.
This is the second type of skid that you might experience while driving during the holidays. This is a sideways skid, so it's different from the straight-line skid. The difference is that only the rear end of your car drifts to one side. Meanwhile, the front end is still pointing straight. This can be really terrifying because you may feel like your car is spinning out of control.
Again, the most important thing is not to panic. Don't slam on the brakes, don't swing the wheel wildly. Here's what you need to do to correct a fishtail skid.
Slowly turn your steering wheel into the direction of the skid. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it's the only thing that works. Just remember, if you're skidding to the left, also steer left. And if you're fishtailing to the right, then steer right. Steer the way you are skidding, no matter how much you may want to do the opposite.
Next, if you've done this step correctly, you will feel that your vehicle is now straightening out. Now, straighten out your steering wheel in a smooth motion, quite slowly, without rushing it.
This way, you will move the rear end of your vehicle back where it belongs. You will be able to get your whole car heading straight again.
If you notice the fishtail immediately and react quickly, you should be okay.
What happens if you over-correct?
Over-correcting is what happens if you turn the wheel too far when you're trying to correct. In this case, your vehicle will begin to fishtail in the other direction from what it first did.
Again, the most important thing is to remain calm. Just repeat the technique of steering into the direction of the skid. Don't swing the wheel back and forth; that is the worst possible thing you could do, apart from slamming on the brakes! Really pay attention to the amount of skid and gradually steer yourself to safety.
Now, there will be some situations where you absolutely have to slow down before you have full control of your vehicle. One example is when there's another car in front of you. You need to avoid hitting the car, so you have to slow down, but you can't slam your brakes. So just pump the brake lightly.
If there's a curve coming up on the road, again just pump the brakes lightly in order to slow down while you are still correcting the skid by steering.
Hopefully you are feeling more prepared for holiday driving now. If you absolutely must drive during terrible conditions, when the roads are icy and wet, keep these techniques and tips in mind.