When it comes to a snowy road, not even tank tracks ensure 100% stability when driving at high speed, nor when swerving into a corner. There is a sensible increase in the number of accidents when the cold season sets in, and for good reason. Snow offers just a part of the traction gained on a dry road.
Combine this with speed and heavy braking and there you have it: your car slides out of control, eventually stopping into a snow bank, or worse, right into the rear bumper of another vehicle. Check out these countermeasures that will allow you to prevent, and ultimately regain control of a skidding vehicle when driving on snowy and icy roads.
Oversteer vs Understeer
There is almost impossible to attain perfect steering in dry conditions, not even mentioning low-grip roads. As a result, one of the two phenomena occurs when changing direction: your car will either understeer (turn less than required) or oversteer (turn in more than you desire, with the rear kicking out of the curb).
Between the two, understeer tends to happen more often and be harder to counteract. Usually, your car understeers on a slippery road when too much input is provided in a short span of time. Otherwise said, if you turn your steering wheel too quickly, the tyres will lose grip and start moving on a straight trajectory. To overcome understeering, point your view towards the direction you want to travel and then slowly steer towards the outside of the curb. Once the car is parallel with the desired trajectory, straighten the wheel and slowly apply throttle.
If you notice your car moving way too fast towards the center of the curb and the rear wheels start sliding towards the outside in an arch, you are oversteering. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this. Slowly steer into the curb until all four wheels are facing the same direction. This will increase grip and reduce peripheral spin of the rear axle. Once you’ve regained control, gradually steer towards the outside of the curb to regain a proper position on the road.
Whether your car is understeering or oversteering, there’s one particular issue you should really consider: don’t touch the brake pedal! Since your car is already sliding, wheels will lock instantly and cause complete loss of control.
In an ideal scenario, you shall be able to drive on winter roads without ever touching the brakes. But since we live in the real world, braking is inevitable at some point. Most modern cars feature at least an ABS (anti-lock braking system) that will prevent wheel locking upon braking. This way, you will be able to steer even when applying full brake power. Remember though to take turn the wheel slowly and steadily to avoid understeer or oversteer. Otherwise, your car will go sideways and ABS won’t help too much.
If you are driving a manual, learn how to use the motor brake. It’s highly effective on slippery roads and doesn’t lock your wheels. If you do however need to apply emergency braking, make sure you keep a straight trajectory and let the ABS computer do the rest for you.