It doesn’t matter how many years of driving experience you have under your belt, or how many Minneapolis – St. Paul winters you’ve survived, snow and ice equal unpredictability for everyone. Underscoring this fact, the Minnesota State Patrol reported no less than 145 crashes, and an additional 101 spinouts or shouldered vehicles as morning commuters headed to work on November 30th during an early dose of heavy snow.
While you can’t prepare for every possible inclement weather scenario, learning how to prevent spinouts and what to do when you can’t is one winter driving tool everyone should have in their toolkit. While you may not develop the level of expertise as the drivers on Ice Road Truckers, you’ll be one steering wheel turn closer to arriving safely at your destination.
Tips for how to avoid spinning out on the ice
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security, and Emergency Management offers the following advice to keep your vehicle pointed in the right direction:
Be Able to See and Be Seen: Clean frost and snow off all windows, mirrors, lights and reflectors. Equip your car with good wiper blades and keep an ample supply of windshield washer fluid. If visibility is poor, use headlamps.
Get a Feel for the Road: When you first start out, accelerate carefully to test wheel-spin and brake gently to test skidding.
Be Gentle: Use the accelerator and brakes slowly to maintain control of your vehicle. Fast acceleration can make wheels spin on ice and snow. Brake with a gentle pumping action. Stepping too hard on the pedal will lock the brakes and cause loss of steering control.
Increase Your Following Distance: Ice or snow can multiply your stopping distance up to ten times.
Make Turns Slowly and Gradually: Heavily traveled intersections can become “polished” and slick. Brake before you come to a curve, not while you are in it.
Scattered Slippery Spots: Icy spots on the road surface can cause loss of steering control. Do not use your brake. Take your foot off the gas and steer as straight as possible until your car slows to a safe speed.
Avoiding a Collision: In an emergency situation, you can intentionally steer your car off the road and into a snow bank. You may get stuck, but you’ll avoid a crash.
What to do and what not to do if your vehicle starts to spinout
Although prevention is favorable, we live in the real world where we don’t always get to choose what happens. If your vehicle does start to spinout, don’t panic. Your initial response may be to hit the brakes or throw your wheel in the opposite direction of the skid, but this will only worsen the slide and you’ll lose control of your vehicle even more.
Instead, try to remain calm and keep your movements gentle. Most of us have heard the phrase “turn into the skid,” this means that if the rear of your car begins to slide, you need to remove your foot from the gas and gently turn in the direction of those rear tires or “into the skid” until you feel the car regain traction and steering control, then be sure to carefully correct your course, slowly accelerating or braking (depending on the type of skid) to avoid a secondary slide.
Determine if it’s your front or rear wheels that are skidding. For rear wheels, accelerate smoothly. If your front wheels are causing the problem, gently, but firmly apply the brakes (taking special care NOT to pump them if you have anti-lock breaks), but only once you’ve counter-steered. Once you’ve regained traction and control of your vehicle you should be good to continue on, carefully.
Remember, when it comes to icy roads, a little movement goes a long way – try not to “over-steer” (making sudden or hard turns or attempts at turns) this could leave you fishtailing or in a ditch. And be sure to keep your eyes in the direction you want to go (not the ditch) as you steer, because your eyes will lead you to your next destination.
You should also be prepared for the potential of a secondary skid, as the car straightens out, and remain ready to counter this sliding action as well. If performed correctly, turning into the skid should help you regain some control of the vehicle.
Preventive medicine for the road
Medicine isn’t the only arena in which prevention is preferable. Of course the best way to stay safe is to avoid driving in harsh weather conditions altogether. If you have a little time, wait until the roads have been cleaned and salted before heading out. If driving is unavoidable be sure to check road conditions before you leave.
Happy holidays and safe driving!
If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a car accident, it is very important to see a doctor immediately to document your injuries in a medical record. If you believe the accident occurred due to another driver’s negligence, contact Meshbesher & Spence for a consultation with our personal injury attorneys. Our attorneys are available to visit you in the hospital or in your home as well as in our offices, and will help you determine if you will be able to recover damages for your injuries.