There is little more frightening than losing control of your vehicle. Often, drivers panic or over-correct, and this can lead to serious accidents involving other vehicles or stationary objects. Here in Colorado, inclement weather can be somewhat common, so knowing what to do in a car skid situation is vital to staying safe.

Why Do Cars Skid on the Road?

A skid occurs when a wheel’s contact surface loses traction with the surface of the road. When it rains or when there is ice on the ground, a tire may temporarily lose its ability to displace water quickly enough to keep itself in contact with the road. This causes a thin layer of material to separate the wheel from the road, making the wheel attempt to gain traction on the water instead, making it much more difficult for the driver to control. This is called hydroplaning.

What Do I Do if My Car Skids?

As difficult as it may seem, it’s important not to panic if you feel yourself losing control of your vehicle due to hydroplaning. Often, drivers tend to freeze up and either turn their wheel sharply in an attempt to correct course or hit the brakes hard in an attempt to slow down. Both of these will put you in danger in this situation.

As your car skids, immediately remove your foot from the gas but do not brake hard or turn sharply. Instead, attempt to keep yourself on course using small wheel corrections while you ride out the skid and slow down. If your car has automatic (ABS) brakes, apply them gently until you are slow enough to regain contact with the road.

How Can I Prevent This From Happening to Me?

Knowing what to do in a dangerous situation can help keep you safe, but so can preparing your vehicle to be in top condition every time you use it. Always err on the side of safety, and consider the following:

  • Practice safe driving in inclement weather. Never drive faster than what is safe for the weather you are in, even if that safe speed is under the speed limit.
  • Make sure your tires are in good condition. The grooves in a tire’s contact patch help displace water away from the surface of the road. If your tires are too worn out, you are at more of a risk of skidding.
  • Make sure your tires are kept at the right air pressure. Under-inflated tires make it harder for treads to displace water adequately, and over-inflated tires reduce the amount of contact surface you have with the road. It is best to maintain a PSI between 32 and 35.