Skip to main content

Skidding – Some more thoughts.

By November 8, 2016January 1st, 2017Uncategorized

As promised, another post with some more thoughts on skidding.

West Mercia Police warn drivers to “slow down” after black ice crashes in Worcestershire

People always seem to skid on ‘black ice’, no one ever seems to skid on normal ice…..

On my previous post on braking I covered the Pub Lore that you should “always steer in the direction of the skid

This seems to be a peculiarly British saying, many countries simply say ‘look where you want to go and steer in that direction’

It’s not actually incorrect but the problem is most people aren’t experienced with skid control and have little idea which way the car is actually skidding, certainly not enough to think it through when it actually happens.

But my driving instructor says… – The only experience most Driving Instructors have in skid control, is the emergency stop exercise should they get that, in the final instructional exam. With this exercise they are expected to mention in the ‘briefing’ ABS, Cadence Braking, and some brief advice on what to do should the vehicle skid. Their  .. trainer won’t attempt to skid the vehicle and neither will the examiner,  for obvious reasons of safety, and there is no requirement undertake any skid pan training.

Here’s a quote from an American “Drivers Ed” website.

When you’re actually skidding, it’s silly to believe that you’re going to think to yourself, “OK, which way is the car skidding? It feels like I’m sliding to the left, but I’m sort of spinning to the right. So, am I skidding to the left or to the right?” Confusing, right?
Thankfully, the answer is simple. Always steer in the direction you want the car to go. When the car starts skidding, look directly where you want to go. Do not look at what you want to avoid. Your hands will follow your eyes, so if you stare at the tree on the side of the road, that’s where you’re going to end up.
So, what is the “steer into the skid” advice based upon? Stupid driving instructors wanting to come up with a simple saying for a complex problem.
Whether your rear wheels or your front wheels are skidding, the correct direction to steer is inevitably in the opposite direction that your front end is headed. OK, now that you know which direction to steer, make sure that your steer gently! Most skids become worse when the driver severely over-corrects…or slams on the brakes…or does both wildly while screaming.”

Here’s a quote from an article about Lionel Fern, a former Special Forces Driver Trainer and Rally Driving Champion who now runs a driver training firm in the UK

So what should you do when your car veers into a sudden skid? I’ve always been confused by the idea of ‘ steering into the skid’, a phrase it turns out I had entirely misconstrued, with potentially drastic consequences.
I thought it meant that if you were trying to turn left, and your car skidded to the right, then you need to steer right. But apparently not.

‘It’s a bad way to describe it,’ says Lionel. ‘We prefer to call it “countersteering” or “opposite lock”. All you do is point the car where you want to go. The reason you need to move the wheel is because, by slipping, the car has changed direction and you need to compensate for that.


That is the question.

Standard advice in Roadcraft, which we’ve used for years  and taught people on skid pans  is declutch – It’s very effective and works fantastically on a skid pan.

The problem with that is, many modern vehicles are now fitted with traction control, and other forms of anti-skid technology.  Most of which won’t work, or certainly won’t work as well when you declutch as the engine is now disconnected from the drive wheels.

Another good reason to read your vehicle handbook and ensure you understand fully how the various safety aids work on your vehicle.

Release the accelerator?

Reg Local points out in his book the advice is Roadcraft about releasing the accelerator –  is incorrect if the understeer or oversteer is caused by excess speed.

In a situation where the rear end of the car is losing grip Roadcraft is advising us to perform an action which will transfer the weight towards the front and more importantly away from the rear.. at a time where you want more grip not less!

This is the same for front wheel drive cars – hence lift off oversteer.

Reg advises you should ‘relax’ not ‘release’ the accelerator and steer gently in the direction you want to go feathering off the throttle.

Of course the most important piece of advice remains – drive in way to ensure you avoid skidding in the first place!


Reading a website is not a substitute for professional advice or training, To the extent permitted by law, we accept no responsibility (including loss, damage or injury) for your use of the information on this Website.