Snow and ice often create havoc on winter roads. Black ice, in particular, can catch many drivers unaware. But there are ways to prevent a slippery moment on the road. And if you find yourself in the midst of a skid – don’t panic. With a little clear-headedness you can manoeuvre yourself safely out of the situation.
Preventing a Skid
- Drive passively. Any aggressive movements – accelerating, braking or turning – are conducive to skidding and, if you’re already in a skid, will make matters worse.
- Use low gears where necessary, for better traction down hills or to reduce speed.
- Be aware of shady areas, infrequently travelled roads, overpasses, bridges, tunnels and roads that run alongside lakes and rivers. These are all areas where ice accumulates.
- If driving in fresh snow try to drive slightly to the side of other tyre marks as it’s less slippery.
- Never brake while driving on ice, but if absolutely necessary, brake carefully and gently.
If you find your vehicle sliding out of control take the following steps:
- Front wheel skids: Remove your foot from the accelerator until you feel your wheels start to gain traction (do not attempt to brake!). As your vehicle’s tyres grab the road, slowly turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front wheels to go.
- Rear wheel skids: Remove your foot from the accelerator. Turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
- Braking: If you have to brake and your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), keep your foot on the brake pedal. The brakes will automatically pump, which you will feel. If your car does not have ABS, you will need to gently pump the brakes manually. Pump more rapidly as the car slows. Braking hard in a non-ABS car will make the skid much worse.
Stuck in the Snow?
- Put the car into 4WD (if possible) and put the transmission into the lowest gear available.
- Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
- Try a light touch on the gas. If your car won’t go forward, put it into reverse and try backing up (ensuring everyone’s out of the way first!)
- Don’t spin your wheels! This will only dig you deeper.
- Clear as much snow away from the front of the wheels and underside of the car as possible.
- Determine which wheels are slipping (ask someone to check whilst you try the accelerator).
- If possible, place sand, dirt, gravel, kitty litter or a piece of old carpet in front of the slipping wheels.
- Get friends or passers by to push the car while you slowly depress the accelerator.
24 Hour Breakdown Services
AA: 0800 224 357 (NZ)
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AA Highway Reports: 0900 33 222 Calls cost $1.00 per minute. (NZ)
Emergency Services in New Zealand
Information for this article was sourced from: ehow.com, nzski.com, aa.co.nz, weather.com, roadragers.com and snowpool.org.nz. This article is intended as guidance only. Each driving situation will present its own challenges and conditions, which should be taken into account when dealing with any potentially hazardous incident on the roads.