All Season Skid Control

With few exceptions, most sequels never seem to quite live up to the original that spawned them.  You may enjoy them for what they are, but it’s just never the same as the first time.  Then there are the follow-ups you can unequivocally ask, “Was that really necessary?”  Case in point, take “Polar Vortex 2;” also known as “I will never complain about 90 degree weather again.”

“The Polar Vortex” might sound like a plot device for the latest science fiction disaster film; featuring Miley Cyrus as an improbable quantum physicist, trying to save the world from some sort of frozen apocalypse, with flashy special effects.  But the polar vortex is real and has had severe consequences for people all over the United States.  Schools were canceled preemptively, businesses were closed; all for the second time this winter, for the reason of expected steep sub-zero temperatures.  And with good reason; no matter how bundled up you are, the freezing temperatures that were achieved were such that it posed an exceptional danger even to those taking precautions, which for many, the benefit of braving just wasn’t worth the risk.

Then there were the logistics of those who still had to travel; cold weather taxes even the most well maintained cars, and makes many difficult, if not impossible to start.  School buses especially have a difficult time of it, running on diesel, because the fuel is semi-solid and the colder it gets, the more it solidifies; making those engines less likely to run.  The implications of the latest “cold snap” this time, extended well beyond the typical confines of the more northern regions of the US; effecting a-typical weather conditions in states like Texas and Georgia.  The city of Atlanta was effectively shut down for days, due to weather conditions that fell well outside the norm for that region; producing several inches of snow, as well as icy road conditions.

For some who have a greater experience with these conditions, this might seem fodder for jokes and quizzical stares.  How can people not drive in two inches of snow?  But it’s easy to take for granted the potential risks of road conditions that are to any degree, less than idea; to say nothing of conditions that are outside one’s ken.  In fact, many people who live in the more variable climates can still often overlook the real caution and precaution needed when driving on severe weather impacted roads.  No matter how well experienced you are driving on snow or ice, it only takes a split second, where the conditions of the road aren’t given their full due; and you either end up in a ditch, or colliding with another car on the road.  The reality that gets the greatest neglect though is that this is true for any driver, at any time.  There may be some slight differences between the more extreme weather conditions that we might be faced at any given time on the road, but the way in which an effective driver manages those conditions,  is still effectively the same.

When you think of a road being “slick” or your car skidding out of control, it’s easy to picture that happening because of an icy road; an image easily envisioned now, at the height of the season those circumstances might occur.  It’s invariably the reason why many drivers in Atlanta parked their cars on highways and in parking lots, rather than proceed to drive to their destination, or attempt to get home.  But this would overlook the equally real danger posed by other road conditions; like when the roads are saturated with rain, or covered in mud.  Any time your vehicle’s tires lose reliable, firm contact with the road, you risk losing control of your vehicle; and the instant you do, what you do next will determine if you regain control, or lose it entirely.

When you start to skid, take your foot off the gas and tap the breaks lightly; don’t hold it down.  Your tires have lost enough contact with the road, that you’ve also lost reliable traction; engaging the break fully locks the rear tires and makes them less useful in controlling your vehicle.  Pumping the break at periodic intervals, bleeds off speed and helps you regain traction.  If your vehicle starts to “fish tail,” where the back end swerves from one side to another – like a swimming fish – you need to “steer into the skid,” turning the wheel back ever so slightly towards the direction you want to go; making sure not to overcorrect by cranking the wheel in the opposing direction, which can make the loss of control worse.

We refer you to our previous blog, about what to do in the event of an accident, found here; in the even an accident is unavoidable.  Likewise, if your best effort to regain control of you car does not succeed, and you end up stuck somewhere along side the road, keep in mind the tips we listed our blog, Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter.  The second to last paragraph brings up the idea of a emergency preparedness kit to keep in your car, for circumstances caused by severe weather.  This type of kit can be useful for any type of weather and would be advisable for drivers in any region.  Making sure to have a charged, emergency prepaid cellphone in your car, ensures you have some way of contacting people in the case of an accident or car trouble; even if your primary phone is dead or forgotten somewhere else.  Road flares and hazard signs help signal to other traffic that you are in distress and may either need help, or should at least yield to your presence on the side of the road, if the situation is under control.  (Aplusb Software offers portable emergency signs in our online store.)  Kitty litter also makes a great inclusion in your preparedness kit, no matter the time of year, or part of the country you live in.  It can help melt ice, or absorb moisture in the muddy terrain you might be stuck in; and either way can help add traction under your vehicle’s tires, to aid it in moving forward.

Finally, the best way to know what to do when driving in adverse weather conditions is to practice; and what better to get that sort of experience under your (seat) belt, than practicing those conditions inside, where it’s nice and warm?  With our of computer driving simulation SimuRide, available for both single monitor home edition and 3 monitor professional edition; users can practice the full gamut of driving conditions, include rain, snow, ice, fog and even a rock slide!  Even if you fail to maintain control of the virtual vehicle the first or even the second time; you remain perfectly safe and sound, and you have no car that needs repair.  And if there happens to be a Polar Vortex 3, or even just other less than perfect road conditions; you’ll be prepared to face those conditions as a more effective driver.