What's The First Thing To Do When A Motor Vehicle Starts To Skid?

Updated October, 2020
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If your vehicle begins to skid out of control, the first thing to remember is to stay calm and focused. Panicking only makes things worse, as you're more likely to make mistakes. Next, don't hit the brakes or gas. Doing so causes the skid to deepen. Instead, slowly let your foot off the gas pedal and steer into the skid.

Why does a car skid?

Typically, a car skids due to lack of traction between the tire and road. Lack of traction is usually caused by wet or icy road conditions, stopping too suddenly, or turning at high speeds.

Front-wheel skid

  • A front-wheel skid, also known as a four-wheel skid, usually occurs when a driver leans into a turn too quickly. This causes the entire car to drift into another direction, then what the driver expected.

Rear-wheel skid

  • A rear-wheel skid, also known as "fishtailing," is when the back part of your vehicle slides drastically to the left or right.

What do I do when my car skids?

Below is the general procedure for regaining control of your skidding vehicle.

  • Step 1: It's important always to stay focused. Losing cool in a potentially dangerous situation only makes things worse. Avoid hitting your brakes too hard, or tensing up. Keep your eyes on the road and grip your steering wheel firmly.
  • Step 2: Don't hit the gas or brakes. Slowing your vehicle down during a skid is essential. Hitting your gas and increasing speed or slamming on your brakes only causes the skid to worsen. Instead, slowly release your foot off the pedal.
  • Step 3: Try to steer into the skid, not away. Gently guide your vehicle into the direction you want to go. This should be a slight movement. In cases that this doesn't work, try gently straightening your wheels. These movements help your tires regain traction.

How to prevent skidding in the first place

While skidding out can't always be avoided, there are precautions you're able to take. The next time you're traveling in less than stellar driving conditions, remember the following:

  • Take extra precautions and drive slower during wet or icy conditions.
  • Always keep an appropriate amount of distance between you and the car in front of you. If things go sideways (literally and figuratively), having plenty of space with the car in front of you should give you enough time to react. A good habit to practice is keeping 4 car lengths for 10mph between you and the car ahead of you.
  • Slow down for turns and curves. This prevents you from hitting a turn too quickly and having to slam on your brakes.
  • Make sure your tires are in good condition. Keep track of your tie treads. You're able to check this by checking your tire's "wear bar." You're also able to check this by inserting a penny into your tire tread upside down. Lincoln's head should be partially covered.

Safe driving tips

Driving safely, in general, goes a long way in ensuring a smooth ride. Remember these general tips the next time you get in your vehicle:

  • Keep other drivers in mind. You never know who's driving while tired, upset, or impaired. Watch drivers around you so you can recognize signs of impairment or bad driving, so you're able to avoid them.
  • Don't talk or text and drive. Keep your eyes on and focusing on the road. Your friends and family would rather hear from you 20-30 minutes later than to know you got hurt trying to text and drive.
  • Slow down. Driving slower gives you more time to react.
  • Maintenance of your vehicle. Keeping your vehicle in good condition helps you avoid unnecessary accidents due to balding tires, malfunctioning windshield wipers, etc.
  • Learn to identify risks. Keep a close eye on what is happening ahead of and behind you. By looking out for potential issues, such as an unexpected merge, you're given more time to plan the best course of action.

Is my insurance enough to protect me in case of an accident?

Sadly, crashes happen. If you're ever in such a situation, you'll want to be confident that your insurance covers damages to property and people. Make sure your insurance is up to date and has good, reliable coverages.

Stop overpaying for subpar car insurance. Get instant, free quotes, today!

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