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Ice driving tips: Controlling a skid

So we're not Ice Road Truckers. We still can prepare for the most common ice driving hazard we're likely to face in the moderate winter clime of Washington.

Steve Gorman of Falls Church told me that on the night of Dec. 18, as the blizzard was leaving its first couple of inches, he and his teenage son set out on an unusual mission:

They went to a high school parking lot, where his son, who has a learner's permit, could practice getting into and out of skids. Gorman said he had done the same practicing when he was his son's age. A month later, he found myself in a skid heading toward an oncoming bus. Instead of panicking, he said, he steered into the skid and got control of the car.

He said his son drove him on family errands in the days after the storm to continue improving his winter driving skills. "I strongly recommend parents give their children this experience," he said, "because sooner or later their children will be faced with driving in these conditions."

Control in a skid
If the rear wheels lose traction and you over steer, AAA recommends you follow these steps to regain control:
-- Continue to look at your path of travel down the road.
-- Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
-- Avoid slamming on the brakes. Although hitting the brakes is a typical response, slamming the brakes will only further upset the vehicle's balance and make it harder to regain control.
-- When the rear wheels stop skidding, continue to steer to avoid a rear-wheel skid in the opposite direction.

If the front wheels skid, AAA recommends this:
-- Follow each of the tips for rear-wheel skids.
-- Wait for the front wheels to grip the road again. As soon as traction returns, the vehicle will start to steer again.
-- When the front wheels have regained their grip, steer the wheels gently in the desired direction of travel.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 30, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, travel tips  
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Comments

Good advice from Mr. Gorman. I did the same (but without a parent accompanying me) when I was in college. Parents wouldn't let me drive in the snow in high school.

The parking lot at WT Woodson High in Fairfax is a good one to use for this because there's a lot of open space.

Posted by: 1995hoo | December 30, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I could not agree more. Driver training in the US is severely lacking. I applaud Mr. Gorman for taking it upon himself to instruct his son in proper driving techniques.

The skidpad at Summit Point is great for teaching proper car control (see the FATT event).

Another piece of advice - although the vast majority of new cars come with Antilock Braking Systems (ABS), ABS is ineffective in ice as it cannot detect when all 4 wheels lock up that the vehicle is still moving. Also, most people let off the brakes when ABS kicks in as it pushes back on the brake pedal. I advise you to practice ABS-affected stops to get the feel for what the car does when ABS kicks back. You might have to manually pump the brake pedal.

Also, be aware of the procedure to put your vehicle in neutral or low gear. DO NOT use the parking brake, which is mechanical and will override the ABS.

Posted by: ssolomo | December 30, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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