Slippery Driving Tips


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Three Kinds of Skids

There are basically three different kinds of skids:

A braking skid is caused when the brakes lock the wheels and cause the vehicle to lose traction. This certainly can happen much more quickly in slippery conditions such as rain, sleet, freezing rain, ice, or snow. Sometimes you may want to test the road surface by braking to see if you slide. Be cautious and do this on a level and straight roadway with no one close behind you.

Locked wheels want to be the front wheels. Tractor-trailers jack-knife when the trailer wheels are locked, thus causing them to want to come to the front. This can also happen if the drive wheels are locked. A four-wheel vehicle with the rear wheels locked will want to spin or fish-tail. Four-wheel brakes that are out of adjustment can cause the vehicle to spin if only the rear wheels are locked.

What to do in a braking skid? Let off the brakes. Pumping the brakes ... applying and releasing ... can help avoid a braking skid or counter the affects of a braking skid by allowing the vehicle to regain traction during those short intervals when the brakes are released.

A power skid is when traction is broken because of acceleration. Pressing quickly on the accelerator can cause a power skid, especially in slippery conditions. If the rear wheels are the drive wheels, this will cause a four-wheel vehicle to fish-tail. Locked wheels or wheels that have lost traction want to become the front wheels.

What to do in a power skid? Let off the acceleration. Sometimes you may want to test the road surface by trying to cause a power skid. Be cautious and do this on a level and straight roadway with no one close in front of you.

A centrifugal force skid or inertia skid is when the vehicle wants to continue in motion such as in a curve and the vehicle wants to continue in a straight line. In slippery conditions this can happen more often. If there is a loss of traction, the vehicle will not follow the steering of the curve, but will slide and continue its straight path.

What to do in a centrifugal force skid? Slow down and pump the brakes. Preventing this type of skid is best. Be cautious and take curves more slowly when in slippery conditions.


Hydroplaning can occur when the tires can no longer displace the moisture on the road. In heavy rain, depending on the speed and the weight of the vehicle, if the tread of the tires can not properly displace the water on the road, the vehicle will begin to ride on top of the water, causing a loss of traction and steering.

How to avoid hydroplaning? Check your tires often. Check tire pressure and tread depth. Know your vehicle and its weight. If your vehicle is prone to hydroplaning, slow down in rain, especially heavy rain and where standing water is on the roadway.

Snow, Ice, Sleet, Freezing Rain

When driving in wintry conditions, be very cautious. It might be wise just to pull over and wait until conditions improve. Drive slower and leave more cushion between you and other vehicles. Driving too slowly and nervous might actually cause yourself to be a hazard to other drivers, but the opposite can also be true. Don't be over-confident, either. Allow more room for braking. Watch your mirrors when braking to make sure the one behind you is also able to stop. Leave a cushion in front of you in case you need to pull forward to prevent someone from rear-ending you. Watch the other traffic and see if others are sliding. Remember to watch for black ice and patches of ice even when most of the roadway is clear. Remember that exit ramps and side roads may not be as clear as the traveled roads that have salt or have been plowed. Be slower than usual when taking exit ramps, especially those with curves and downgrades. Watch the temperatures. Conditions can change quickly. The temperature can drop a few degrees in just a few miles. Dry snow generally allows more traction. Icy roads can be more slippery. If the traffic around you is creating a wet spray, then that might mean it's not a frozen surface. But conditions can change quickly when near 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius. You can move from a area that has salt to an area that has not been treated, and it quickly can become more slippery. Watch other traffic, and on occasion when safe to do so, test the surface by trying to create a short power skid or a short braking skid. Safe and slow is better ... or find a safe place to stop and wait until conditions improve.

Watch Those Clearances

Pay close attention to clearances when in snow, ice, and freezing rain. Tree limbs and overhead wires may be hanging down under the weight of ice and snow. Roadways may also be packed with ice and snow causing different bridge clearances. Sometimes bridges are marked allowing for the change in roadway conditions and the clearance is greater than marked when clear. Other overpasses are marked without any tolerance. When packed with snow and ice, these clearances will be less than marked.