Big icy skids cost big repair bills. Do you know how to beat the skid?

Snow-skidding drivers pay a hi-icy price

Tuesday, 13 December 2011 4:12 PM


Don't get caught out when it snows. A few simple tips can help you avoid an expensive fender-bender

When the first winter snow starts to fall on your street it’s worth taking five minutes to think ahead as to how you’ll deal with the slippery white menace, when you eventually run out of milk and have to take the car on a potentially treacherous trip to the shops.

New research from Sainsbury's car insurance suggests that 13.7 million drivers are not aware of what to do if their car goes into a skid and over a quarter (27%) of drivers who find themselves in a skid would take action that could make their situation worse.

The supermarket bank estimates that around 264,000 accidents could be caused this year by icy roads, with the research showing that 1.3 million drivers have had an accident in icy conditions in the past five years, with their average repair bill costing £1,773.

Icy conditions are clearly a major headache for drivers, with 22% saying they only venture out in an emergency when it’s icy, and 7% saying they won’t drive at all. The figure rises even higher for women, with more than a third (38%) saying they will either not drive at all or only drive in an emergency when it’s icy compared to 20% of men. We in the UK – male or female – are always ill-prepared for the wicked white stuff, but a few simple precautions and driving tips could help us stay out of the hedges.

To illustrate the scale of the problem, Sainsbury’s car insurance conducted an experiment in which 12 drivers were taken to a skid-pan and tested on their winter driving abilities, including being tasked to drive in simulated winter driving conditions on a specialist track without any tuition. They were then taught how to control a car in a skid and re-tested.

The experiment found that 50% were unable to safely control the car in a skid prior to getting winter driving tuition, while afterwards 91% of drivers were able to safely control the skid. Perhaps it’s time we all took some tuition? In the meantime, here are a few skidding tips:

– Driving slowly can help prevent icy skids, but if the car does slip out of control try not brake or accelerate hastily; drop gears gently and apply the brakes smoothly

– Or, instead, lift your foot gently off the accelerator. This will allow your car to slow very smoothly and gently

– If you need to continue driving then do so slowly using a high gear. This will help you avoid hard acceleration, which could spin the wheels

– If there is no response when you turn the steering wheel and the car continues on ahead remove your foot from the accelerator. This throws the weight balance of the car forwards and helps the front tyres find grip. At this time reduce the steering angle input; tyre treads work best facing forwards, not turned-in hard

– Take care on motorways and dual carriageways and don't let other drivers influence your speed and don't hug the car in front. Rear-enders are far too common in bad conditions

– Take extra care around large vehicles which may not see you and, should they loose control, could take you with them

– Give motorcyclists and cyclists plenty of room, in case they get a wobble on

– If you get stuck in ice or snow, make sure your handbrake brake is on and clear the area around the wheels and apply grit or salt around the slipping wheel. Then use low revs to gently move away. Taking off in second gear can provide more traction. Or, indeed, stay at home, put your feet up, order a pizza and let the delivery boy deal with the skids. 

By Daniel Anslow

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