Recently, there has been a number of videos shared on social media of cars skidding out of control. Most involved high-powered models. What is the most common cause? And what can a driver in such a situation do to prevent a crash?
The most common cause of skidding is loss of grip. There are a couple of reasons why a car's tyres lose grip.
When the road is wet, or if there is an oily patch, grip will be compromised. Balding tyres will have less grip than fresh ones. Excessive speed can also push grip to its limits, especially if the vehicle is negotiating a turn.
If there is a combination of these factors, the chances of skidding increase exponentially - more so if the vehicle's stability or traction control is deactivated.
The best way to prevent skidding is to eliminate the above factors. For instance, if it is wet, go slower.
But what can you do if you find yourself in a skid?
If you are in a front-wheel-drive car, simply back off on the accelerator and straighten the steering (if you are in a turn). Do not use the brakes. More often than not, grip will be restored instantly and you can resume your turn.
But if you are in a rear-wheel-drive car, it gets trickier because it requires you to fight your instinctive reaction to lift your foot off the accelerator immediately. Sometimes, this will worsen the situation by decreasing the grip of the rear tyres further.
You will have to ease off the accelerator gradually, while steering towards your intended direction. Again, do not use the brakes. As the car regains control, counter-steer to straighten the rear.
Now, if you are in a high-powered car going fast with the traction control off in the wet, you will have a far lower chance of recovering from a skid - even if you are an above-average driver.
This is not just because these cars are usually rear-wheel drives, but the reaction time needed to respond to a skid is often much shorter as the speed needed to unsettle such cars in the first place is higher than for most other cars. Hence, those videos.