Driving on ice and water requires a special set of skills and a bit of experience. Skidding can be scary, and our knee-jerk reactions may not improve the situation. If you hit a patch of black ice, start hydroplaning during a rainstorm, or have to navigate a snowy slick road, you could lose control of your car. Accidents involving skidding on the road are common, but many are avoidable. Use the below tips to help yourself stay in control if you start skidding while driving in rain or on ice.
Turn Into the Skid
"Even if you have good tires, you can still skid," said Christine Wang, founder of The Ski Girl and winter weather driving expert. "It's important to know that you never want to slam on your brakes if you start to skid on snow or ice. Braking can increase a skid and cause more problems."
Instead, if you are sliding across ice or water, Wang recommends gently turning your wheel in the direction of the skid. Many slick areas are just a few feet long. If you can correct the direction of your car, you may be able to safely recover from the skid quickly when you hit the dry pavement.
"A good way to practice this is in a snowy parking lot where you can skid gently and practice the technique," said Wang.
Check Your Tires
When it's cold and blustery outside and your wheels are packed with snow, it can be easy to forget or put off checking your tire pressure and tread. Make it a habit to take a close look at your tires when you fill your gas tank.
"It is the responsibility of a car owner to make sure there is adequate tire pressure, or even a need for new tires when treads get worn down. Car owners have a responsibility to keep up with routine maintenance before an accident occurs," said traffic and accident law expert David Reischer, Esq.
When you're checking your tires, note their overall condition so you know when it's time to upgrade. Also, carry a small tire pressure gauge in your glove compartment. If you need to add air to one or more of your tires, you can do so at many gas stations.
"Even though not all skidding accidents occur as a consequence of negligence, a driver that skids will usually be held responsible for a resulting car accident," said Reischer.
Practice Driving in Rain and on Ice
It's tempting to stay inside and avoid driving on ice and snow, but a lack of experience could mean you won't know how to handle a skid when conditions get bad. Practice driving in less-than-ideal winter conditions during the daylight hours. Make sure your car's glass is completely cleared, and let the interior of the car warm up a bit before you leave. You may feel better having a more experienced driver by your side.
If you are the parent of a new driver, encourage them to practice driving in rain. Stick to less-busy roads and stay in areas where it's OK to drive slowly. Show them how to check tire pressure and make sure they understand how important it is to be able to see out of all of the car's windows. Not every parent is able to be their child's driving instructor, however.
Defensive driving classes offer valuable tips about how to safely drive on ice or snow and what to do if you skid on the road. Enrolling in one of these classes could help give a new or generally inexperienced driver the confidence they need to get through many difficult driving situations.